Proper Processes Can Stop Wrong Side Surgeries

The medical community is being called upon to make procedural changes that would significantly reduce the risk of wrong site and wrong side surgeries. Across the country, about 40 surgeries a week are performed on the wrong side of the body, the wrong site on the body, or even on the wrong patient.

The problem with surgeries was originally highlighted in 1998 by the Joint Commission, a nonprofit group that accredits health care organizations. The health care community has made many necessary fixes, but there is still a long way to go, according to Commission President Mark Chassin.

Many hospital groups across the country have been successful addressing these surgery mistakes through procedural changes, according to Hospitals and Health Networks Magazine.

A Safe Surgery Coalition in Minnesota began a campaign to eliminate surgeries performed on the wrong site in three years. In its first year, the campaign brought wrong site surgeries down from two or three a month in the state to only one per month. In Pennsylvania, one group of hospitals reduced its wrong site surgery numbers from an average of 15 a year down to only four.

These positive changes are the result of disciplined work, according to the magazine. Hospital groups unwilling to put in the effort still have unacceptable rates of surgery site mistakes. The causes of wrong site surgeries can be complicated to solve. Errors usually happen because of miscommunication during surgery prep, according to the magazine.

The procedural fixes that can lead to fewer or even zero wrong site surgeries are so simple, they sometimes do not get enough attention, according to Dr. Bill Berry, who is the program director of Safe Surgeries 2015, an initiative from the Harvard School of Public Health.

Wrong site surgery problems can occur in several places throughout the process including scheduling, consent forms, on-site marking and operating room time outs. The procedure that can bring about the biggest change when done correctly is known as the OR time out. A time out is the final check before the surgery begins.

The state health department in Minnesota created a process to address wrong site surgeries called the Minnesota Time Out. Researchers there found that the time outs were chaotic and rarely consistent or thorough, according to the magazine.

By creating a time out process where everyone in the room has a role and the procedure is followed every time, Minnesota has seen improvement.
Sometimes adding new processes to protect the patient can ruffle the feathers of health care professionals who are set in their ways, but that is where a hospital CEO must step in and insist that safe surgery processes be implemented and followed, according to the magazine.

Victims of wrong-site surgeries have real and long-term effects from the incorrect procedures. A medical malpractice attorney can hold the guilty party responsible while the victim recovers.

Robert Briskman is a Chicago medical malpractice lawyer and Chicago medical malpractice attorney with Briskman Briskman & Greenberg. To learn more call 1.877.595.4878 or visit

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