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What are the most common wrong-site surgeries?

Undergoing surgery requires that you turn over total control of your health and well-being to the medical professionals involved. Generally, patients come out of surgery to news of success, but sometimes things don’t go as planned.

Surgeons can make mistakes in their practice of medicine that result in catastrophic consequences for the patients involved. You expect that the surgeon will understand what procedure to perform and how to perform it safely. What you may not expect is that they may perform a wrong-site operation.

Surgeons can and frequently do perform surgery on the wrong part of a patient. Such surgery can cause devastating consequences and often requires a second procedure to correct the impact of the first one. What kinds of wrong-site procedures are most likely to occur in an operating room in the United States?

Wrong-site surgery happens in many different ways

Research on wrong-site surgical mistakes in modern America makes it clear that one kind of location error during surgery is far more likely than other kinds of mistakes. Overall, the biggest risk is for a surgeon to perform the correct medical procedure on the wrong side of the body. Such mistakes accounted for 59% of the wrong-site surgeries reviewed.

However, another 23% of the procedures involved a surgeon performing the procedure on the right side of the body but somehow at another incorrect site. Another 14% of the surgical errors classified as wrong-site procedures involve a surgeon performing the wrong kind of operation on a patient. Finally, 5% of the wrong-site surgeries involved a doctor operating on the wrong patient, such as someone with the same name as the intended patient.

Basically, you are more likely to come out of surgery and discover that the surgeon repaired the tendons in the wrong wrist rather than to find out that they perform the wrong procedure altogether. Of course, that is cold comfort for someone who has to undergo recovery for an unnecessary surgery and then later undergo the surgery on the correct side of their body.

There is no justification for operating in the wrong location

Medical professionals classify wrong-site surgeries as a kind of never event. In a properly run medical setting, these mistakes should never occur. Patients harmed by a surgeon who operated on the wrong part of their body or performed the wrong procedure may have grounds for a medical malpractice claim.

Learning about surgical mistakes can help you make the right choices if one happens to you or a family member.