Patients who underwent wrong-site surgery, an incorrect procedure or a procedure intended for another patient may face terrifying and catastrophic consequences. This medical malpractice is known as wrong-site, wrong procedure, wrong patient errors. These WSPEs are defined as never events that should never take place and reveal serious safety issues.
Operating on the wrong side is one type of wrong site surgery. For example, this occurred when a patient had the right side of her vulva removed even though the cancerous legion was on the left.
A common type of wrong site surgery for neurosurgeons is operating on the wrong level of the spine. In one classic incident, a patient underwent a cardiac procedure that was supposed to be performed for another patient who had a similar last name.
WSPEs, however, are comparatively infrequent. These errors occur in approximately one of 112,000 surgeries, according to estimates. A hospital would have one WSPE every five to 10 years.
These estimates, however, only covered procedures performed in an operating room. The error rate may be higher if estimates included procedures performed in ambulatory surgery, interventional radiology or other medical settings. For example, a study based on Veterans Affair figures revealed that half of all WSPEs took place during procedures outside operating rooms.
Communication problems are an underlying cause of WSPEs. As a result, surgical timeouts or a planned pause before a procedure begins to review important components of the procedure were implemented and incorporated into a universal protocol to improve important parts of surgical procedures.
Even with this precaution, however, WSPEs may still take place. These errors may occur before a patient arrives in the operating room, the timeout was too fast or ineffective and production pressures led to errors during the surgical procedure.
Victims of this surgical error or malpractice may be entitled to compensation. An attorney can help assure that negligent practitioners and hospitals are held responsible in a personal injury lawsuit.