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Prevent Wrong Site Surgery

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Updated June 28, 2011

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Prevent Wrong Site Surgery

Prevent wrong-site surgery with simple steps.

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Patients are shocked to hear about mistakes in surgery, but they do happen...more often than you think. Because reporting is not always done, knowing how many wrong-site surgeries occur is difficult, but estimates are that 40 wrong-site surgeries occur every week in the United States. Here are some steps to ensure you and your surgeon avoid this type of error.
Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: n/a

Here's How:

  1. Read your surgical consent form.
    This is the form you sign before proceeding with surgery. This form should be signed after you read where it states the correct surgery, on the correct body part. If you don't understand the form, ask that it be explained to you. Have your surgeon review and explain your consent form in front of you, not one of his or her assistants.

  2. Tell hospital staff what you are having done.
    Clearly state what procedure and what body part you are having surgery on to each of the people you meet in the hospital (the preoperative nurses, anesthesiologist, etc.). While patients may be tempted to makes jokes about these questions, I assure you that physicians take this job seriously. Save the jokes for another time.

  3. Have the site marked.
    Have your surgeon (not an assistant) clearly mark his or her initials where the surgical incision will be located. Do not mark it yourself. Insist that you see and speak with your surgeon before receiving any anesthesia medications.

  4. Be a part of the "time-out."
    Before any surgery starts, the entire team should stop, and take part in a "time-out." This is the time when everyone reviews what is being done, and anyone can speak up if there are questions. If you are awake for surgery (local anesthesia), then you should be a part of the time-out as well.

Tips:

  1. Do not mark your own body. This only serves to confuse the situation.
  2. The only marking should be your surgeons initials. Not an "X". Do not mark "NO" on the non-surgical extremity.
  3. The mark should be where the incision is located. For example, if a finger is where the surgery is being done, the mark should not be on the palm or wrist.
  4. Take this seriously. Mistakes should never happen.
  5. Sources:

    "Wrong Site Surgery Advisory Statement" American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

    "The Pain of Wrong Site Surgery" Washington Post. June 20, 2011.

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