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Hospitals have procedures to avoid wrong-site surgical mistakes

Even though many Illinois residents have heard horror stories about surgeries in which the wrong body part was operated on, few people think it will happen to them. Unfortunately, a certain percentage of surgical mistakes that occur each year across the country involves this type of error. This happens despite the fact that hospitals have procedures to avoid "wrong-site" surgical errors.

The procedure at one out-of-state hospital requires the surgical team to take a "time out" prior to beginning the surgery in order to verify vital details. First, and perhaps most importantly, the team verifies that they have the right patient and the correct surgical site, which is marked by the surgeon. Then they discuss the details of the operation itself, such as how it will proceed, along with any other issues specific to that procedure.

The information discussed often comes from medical records, x-rays and other forms. Therefore, if those forms are incomplete, there is a potential for error. For instance, a surgeon at a California hospital was supposed to operate on the left ring finger of a patient.

However, in paperwork sent to the hospital on the day of the surgery, the correct finger was not specified. Further, the surgeon only marked the patient's hand, but not the correct finger. Subsequently, the wrong finger was operated on and the patient required a second procedure to correct the mistake.

That case "only" involved a finger, but most Illinois residents would agree the potential damage could be much worse. Wrong-site surgical mistakes can leave a patient with a permanent injury that could alter his or her life forever. If this happens, the patient has the right to file a medical malpractice claim against the party or parties believed to be responsible. Any monetary restitution received in a successfully litigated claim could help the injured party with the monetary damages incurred because of the mistake.

Source:, "Twin Cities hospital fined for operating on wrong finger", Janet Lavelle, Jan. 28, 2016

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