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Wrong-Site Surgery

Wrong site surgery has occured at least 150 times since the 1996 report from the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organization. Wrong site surgery was performed on the wrong limb or organ - or even the wrong person. Wrong site surgery is medical malpractice.

Rhode Island Hospital recently made headlines when it admitted that one of its surgeons operated on the wrong side of a patient's brain after the CT scan was inserted backwards in the viewing box. A year ago a similar incident occurred at Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn, N.Y. Even though the J.C.A.H.C. has issued a couple of alerts about the problem, the rate of incidence remains steady.

Wrong Site Surgery Precautions

To ensure you aren't the next victim, make sure you and your surgeon are in complete agreement on the surgery before you enter the operating room. The J.C.A.H.C. also recommends that you discuss with your surgeon what steps are being taken to identify the right site for the procedure - and participate in them. For knee surgery, for example, the physician and the patient should together mark the appropriate knee with a "yes" and the healthy one with a "no" using a special surgical pen that will not wash off when the area is sterilized. A simple "x" could be confusing, warns the National Patient Safety Foundation's Gluck.
Once you're in the operating room, confirm that everyone on the surgical team knows who you are and what procedure has been scheduled. You also need to ask if they're looking at your medical records. And if you have any questions, don't be shy. These simple precautions can avoid some tragic outcomes.

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