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Why do doctors use permanent markers on patients before surgery?

On Behalf of | May 19, 2021 | Medical Malpractice |

The process of getting ready for surgery requires a lot of extra effort from a patient. They may need to abstain from food and even drinks for hours before the procedure. Some people may require testing, and most everyone undergoing general anesthesia and significant procedures will also require admission to the hospital for at least an overnight stay.


Along with all of this, other preparatory work is something that seems out of place at the hospital: The surgeon, technician or even a nurse will go to a patient and ask them to mark on their body the place where surgery should occur with a permanent marker.


For example, someone undergoing carpal tunnel surgery on their right arm would make a mark on their forearm or wrist indicating the site of the operation. There are multiple people working in the operating room and medical records that clearly state what procedure the patient should have. Why do hospitals use markers to draw around the site of an operation?


External markings help prevent wrong-site surgery

Mistakes can happen in the operating room, often with terrible consequences for the patient. Some of these mistakes are minor, while others could have life-altering consequences. Performing a surgery on the wrong part of the body or the wrong side might drastically alter someone’s prognosis.


You probably think that wrong-site surgeries are uncommon but the truth is that dozens of them do still occur every year in the United States. Research indicates that the average hospital can expect to have such an incident occur in their operating rooms roughly every five to 10 years.


Having patients mark themselves or witness a medical professional marking the appropriate spot can create a visual reminder that drastically reduces the likelihood of medical professionals making a catastrophic mistake.


Surgical mistakes like wrong-site operation should never occur

In the world of medical safety and malpractice insurance, mistakes like wrong-site operations, whether they occur on the wrong side of the body or the wrong location altogether, should simply never occur. With proper attention and oversight, neither the surgeon nor their supporting staff should ever overlook such a glaring mistake.


Individuals can suffer lifelong expenses, including the need for additional medical care and decreased earning potential all because a surgeon did not double-check their information before performing a procedure. Such patients likely have grounds for medical malpractice claims because of the surgical mistake they experienced.