How Common are Wrong-Site Surgeries?

A surgical error is a form of medical malpractice that specifically involves an avoidable mistake conducted by a surgeon or another medical professional during the course of a patient’s surgery. Leaving small medical objects like gauze inside of a patient is one of the most common types of surgical errors, but it is not usually the most damaging. Instead, wrong-site surgeries are often the type of surgical error that does severe and irreversible damage to a patient’s body and overall health and wellbeing.

How often are unthinkable wrong-site surgeries happening, though? The data is a bit unclear due to inconsistencies with how surgical errors are typically reported. The Patient Safety Network (PSNet) of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) – which is also part of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (DHS) – noted that wrong-site surgeries are only consistently reported when they occur in operating rooms. If they happen elsewhere, such as minor surgeries not conducted in full operating theaters, then the mistake could be reported as something else. For example, Veterans Affairs research showed that about 50% of surgical errors that affected veterans did not happen in operating rooms and, therefore, were reported misleadingly.

Using the available data, though, it was concluded that wrong-site, wrong-procedure, or wrong-patient errors – abbreviated to WSPEs in most medical contexts – happened at least once in every 112,000 surgical procedures. Given that these mistakes are considered “never events” that should reasonably never happen, even this number is greatly concerning.

WSPE’s occurred in the following frequencies:

  • 58%: Wrong side
  • 23%: Wrong site or wrong body part
  • 14%: Wrong procedure
  • 5%: Wrong patient

Why Do Wrong-Site Surgeries Happen?

Understanding why wrong-site surgeries happen could help prevent more of them in the future. Unfortunately, though, the data is once again unclear when it comes to reporting the causes of such surgical errors. Most surgical error reports only note that an error did happen but does not speculate or describe why. Wrong-site surgeries could feasibly happen due to a surgeon’s inexperience, mixed-up patient records, general negligence, and more, but sorting those issues into usable datasets could be difficult.

If you were injured by a surgeon’s mistake, then you might have the opportunity to demand compensation through a claim or lawsuit. Contact Golomb & Honik, P.C. to discuss your options with a legal team that has won plaintiff cases nationwide!

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