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Reducing wrong-site surgery errors

Most surgeries in Pennsylvania go as planned. However, there are about 40-60 wrong-site surgeries (WSS) that occur every week in the United States. This is why annual events like National Time Out Day are held to provide an added incentive for surgical teams to remain vigilant and proactive.

The highest number of wrong-site surgeries involve orthopedic procedures, followed by dental and spinal surgeries. Recent data suggests that WSS events are commonly caused by human errors such as poor competency, training and education. Risky areas for patients include both the surgical prep area where anesthesia is administered and the OR itself. Patient risks may be reduced if there's a safety culture in place that's driven by leadership and a willingness to allow team members to voice concerns.

Wrong-site surgery errors may be further reduced if medical staff routinely assess unique WSS risks. One way this could be done is with a standardized tool that allows risks to be identified and addressed via a conveniently accessible system. A preoperative briefing with the patient could also allow doctors to verify the procedure and surgical site. Additionally, an emphasis on a team approach to patient safety can give each surgical team member an opportunity to confirm patient information and raise any red flags observed.

When a surgical error causes serious harm to a patient, a medical malpractice lawyer could provide valuable assistance. Whether malpractice involves operating on the wrong site, causing damage to nearby structures or failing to make an accurate diagnosis in the first place, an affected patient may be entitled to appropriate compensation.

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