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Wrong-site surgery may lead to malpractice lawsuits

The term "wrong-site surgery" is often used to describe surgical procedures that happen on the wrong part of the body, though it is also used when the wrong procedure is done or when a procedure is done on the wrong person. This can be a cause for medical malpractice lawsuits in Montana and nationwide. The Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority has provided data indicating a lack of decline in wrong-site surgeries as well as some of the potential reasons why it continues to be a problem in hospitals around the country.

Some of the most common wrong-site surgeries included wrong-side surgery such as procedures done on the wrong hand or the wrong eye. Other common wrong-site surgery incidents included anesthetic or pain blocks done in the wrong area as well as surgery performed on the wrong vertebrae. These mistakes, said the PPSA report, were due to miscommunication or misinformation on the operating room schedule, from the physical exam or in the patient's informed consent process.

Potential solutions include ensuring that all communication happens in an active manner between surgeons and nurses involved in the process. Communication should be both verbal and written, and providers should be sure to sign their initials when marking the site for the procedure. This does not always happen, however, because some surgeons feel that it is not important or that they will not make a mistake. However, failing to follow proper procedure puts them at risk for medical malpractice lawsuits.

A medical malpractice lawyer could help patients seek compensation when a health care provider makes a costly mistake. The lawyer might be able to trace exactly what went wrong in the hospital and help with drafting a legal statement and filling out paperwork, providing counsel, negotiating an out-of-court settlement or offering representation in court.

Source: aaos.org, "Patient safety means patients first", James H. Herndon, September 10, 2014

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