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Why wrong-site surgeries occur

Although reports of wrong-site surgeries are rare, they raise serious questions for both patients and medical professionals in South Carolina. A patient may want to be assured that this scenario won't occur during their procedures, and surgeons and hospitals may worry about the legal and financial implications if something goes wrong. Individuals on both sides of the problem can benefit from the identification of causes and consequences connected to WSSs.

In many cases, a WSS is the result of a surgeon error. However, a breakdown in leadership, communication or procedural measures could contribute to such an incident. Poor communication between pre-operative staff and a patient might result in the wrong surgery site being identified. Lack of a sign-your-site protocol could leave a patient vulnerable to a WSS. Pressures that prevent such communications and procedures could also increase the possibility of errors. An emergency surgery, for example, could prevent clear communication with a patient and a lack of an opportunity to sign the surgery site.

Although WSS is considered to be preventable, it is important to recognize that any surgeon has a chance of making this mistake due to the high number of surgeries performed during their careers. Common specialties in which WSSs occur include orthopedics, podiatry, urology, neurosurgery and general surgery. In addition to identification of the surgery site through signing, professionals have established a time-out approach prior to invasive procedures. Additionally, the use of two patient identifiers is intended to contribute to greater accuracy and fewer errors.

A patient preparing for an invasive procedure may want to be aware of these preventive measures, raising concerns if they are not asked to sign their surgery site. Additionally, it may be helpful to research the record of a hospital or surgeon to verify that there have not been serious incidents in the past. In case of a WSS, it may be important to document conversations and actions for use in a potential medical malpractice claim.

Source:, "Wrong-Site Surgery: A Preventable Medical Error", Deborah F. Mulloy; Ronda G. Hughes, September 19, 2014

Philpot Law Firm, PA
115 Broadus Ave.
Greenville, SC 29601

Toll Free: 866-853-3497
Toll Free: 866-853-3497
Phone: 864-990-0226
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