Wrong-Site Surgery and Wrong Procedure Concerns Highlighted by Incorrect Operation on Woman’s Left Hand

A 65-year-old woman diagnosed with idiopathic trigger finger underwent surgery only to have the wrong procedure performed. A New England Journal of Medicine article discusses the circumstances surrounding the surgeon’s account of how carpal-tunnel release surgery was performed by accident instead of the correct operation for a trigger-finger release. The article also addresses initiatives that have been created and instituted for medical personnel as a way to help lower instances of wrong-site surgery and the performance of incorrect surgical procedures.

In 1998, the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) developed a “Sign Your Site” program in which surgeons would label the surgical site with their initials. The AAOS had hoped that the initiative would decrease the number of wrong-site surgeries. However, the number of cases documented displayed an increasing number of wrong-site surgeries in the United States.

The article states that a recent survey of AAOS members revealed that 5.6% of reported medical errors were wrong-site procedures or wrong procedures. Of these, about 59% involved the wrong side of the patient’s body (left vs. right), 23% related to another wrong site (i.e. the wrong finger on the correct hand), 14% involved the wrong procedure, and 5% accounted for incidents involving the wrong patient. The knee, finger, hand, foot, and ankle are the most common sites for wrong-site procedures and wrong procedures.

Although wrong-site surgery can take place within all surgical areas of specialty, it is reported to be most common among orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons, with approximately 68% of claims in the U.S. relating to orthopedic surgery.

Surgical mishaps can potentially injure or otherwise cause harm to a patient before, during, and after a surgical procedure. While every instance of surgical error may not result in a meritorious medical malpractice claim, there are some circumstances that do justify filing a claim. The New Jersey surgical negligence attorneys at Blume Forte have the resources and experience to handle a wide range of medical malpractice cases, and have successfully represented patients as a result of wrong-site surgery. Call our firm at 973-845-4421 for a no-cost consultation.

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