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How Common Are Wrong-Sided Surgeries?

Written by Berkowitz

Connecticut Medical Malpractice Attorney - Berkowitz and Hanna LLCRight-left confusion is a common occurrence in the human brain. When you tell someone to work on the right-side of something, he or she could mistake it for the left side. While in most cases this is not detrimental, for surgeons, it could be. Some of the most infamous errors in medical history have been those involving wrong-sided surgeries – in other words, the wrong side of the individual was operated on. This can include operating on the wrong arm, removing the left kidney instead of the right, or much more.

A recent article in the National Post discussed this phenomenon and how it could impact the quality of medical care that individuals receive.

Why Does It Happen?

Research has found that left-handed people are more likely to suffer from left-right confusion. Also, women report the problem more than men, but science has yet to prove if gender has anything to do with it. Furthermore, IQ has nothing to do with left-right confusion, as many high-IQ individuals have suffered from it and made critical mistakes.

When it comes to medicine, laterality errors can be devastating. Wrong-sided surgery is quickly becoming one of the most feared surgical errors, as well as increasingly common. It used to be something characterized as rare, but as more “rare events” are categorized and monitored at leading hospitals, it is apparent that they occur much more often than originally thought.

In fact, this problem occurs so frequently that hospitals are now employing surgical checklists for preparation teams, as well as the operating physician. It is part of hospital protocol to follow these steps before incisions can be made; the checklist includes marking the patient’s arm to ensure the correct arm is operated on.

Wrong Site Surgeries Are Preventable

While the issue of laterality errors is common, wrong-sided surgeries can be prevented regardless of whether someone suffers from the lateral confusion. Wrong-sided surgeries can be a devastating experience for the patient and have negative effects on the surgical team. Also, state licensing boards are not imposing penalties on surgeons who commit wrong-sided surgeries. There are even some insurers that will no longer pay providers if a surgery is performed on the wrong site. Instead, the cost will come from the hospital or physician who committed the error.

Surgery performed on the wrong side is compensable under medical malpractice lawsuits. In fact, 79 percent of wrong-side eye surgeries resulted in malpractice lawsuits, according to the NCBI.

These wrong-sided surgeries typically occur because of the lack of a formal system to verify if the site of the surgery was correct prior to starting operation. In other words, they are 100 percent preventable. Communication failures were found in 70 percent of cases, while procedural non-compliance was found in 64 percent and lack of leadership in 46 percent.

Was Your Operation a Wrong-Sided Operation?

If you recently had a surgery that was performed on the wrong side, you can hold that physician, as well as the surgical center, responsible for your additional pain, suffering, and medical costs. To learn more about your potential claim, you should contact a malpractice attorney right away. Contact Berkowitz and Hanna LLC today to schedule a no-obligation case evaluation. Call 866-479-7909 or contact us online to get started.