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Wrong-site surgery: Common causes

A wrong-site surgery is one of the worst mistakes that can be made in medicine. With this error, a patient goes through the struggle of a surgery to end up having no relief from the problem and a new problem created.

Sometimes, wrong-site surgeries aren't too serious, but other times, they could threaten a patient's life. For instance, if a patient needs a kidney removed and the wrong kidney is taken, the patient won't have a second kidney to rely on when the damaged kidney is finally replaced. Instead, they may have to have a transplant, which would have been unnecessary.

It's possible to reduce the risk of wrong-site surgeries, but first, the medical provider has to address common problems that lead to them. Some common causes of wrong-site surgeries include:

  • Scheduling mistakes
  • Pre-op or holding errors
  • Operating room defects
  • Organizational defects

Here's an example. If you have a scheduled surgery at 7:00 a.m., and arrive late, the provider might still do the surgery but switch you to a later time. If the provider does not update the records accurately, you could end up having a surgery performed that isn't correct. If this provider does many similar surgeries, it could be the surgery you need, but it will likely be in the wrong place.

Wrong-site surgeries may also occur because of pre-op mistakes, like marking the wrong body part. Operating room defects, such as distractions, and organizational defects, like a lack of focus on the job at hand, can also result in mistakes being made. All of these mistakes could lead to a patient seeking a malpractice lawsuit.

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