Can This Prevent a Wrong-Site Surgery Mistake?

You may think an event called National Time Out Day has something to do with sports. It doesn't. It's actually an effort to help prevent a potentially fatal medical error that occurs in operating rooms in St. Louis and other cities throughout the country.

National Time Out Day is geared toward surgical teams, not athletic teams. Held this year on June 8, it's an annual reminder to medical providers about the need to take a "time out" just prior to surgery to eliminate deadly mistakes during surgery, such as wrong-site surgery.

What is wrong-site surgery? It's when surgery is performed on the wrong part of a patient's body or when the wrong procedure is performed.

Wrong-Site Surgeries Occur 40 Times a Week

According to The Joint Commission, a not-for-profit organization that accredits healthcare facilities, a wrong-site surgery mistake happens 40 times every week in the United States. Having surgical teams take a time out is a Joint Commission guideline, applicable to all accredited hospitals and out-patient surgical centers.

The Joint Commission has classified a wrong-site surgical mistake as a sentinel event, which is one that results in:

· The death of a patient

· Severe permanent harm to the patient

· Severe temporary harm to the patient that is life threatening

Wrong-site surgery has also been deemed a "never event," meaning it's a preventable medical mistake that should never happen to a patient.

Poor Surgical Team Communication

During the mandated pre-op time out, surgical teams are supposed to review patient records and the procedure, confirm each person's role during the procedure, and discuss proper responses if complications arise.

The purpose of the surgical time out is to improve communication between the surgeon, anesthesiologist and nurses. Poor communication is a leading cause of all types of serious medical mistakes, such as medication errors and misdiagnosis.

One thing patients can do to help prevent wrong site surgery is to make sure, when possible, they confirm with their doctor which part of the body will be operated on and that the correct area is clearly marked by the surgeon prior to the procedure.

While patient input can help in preventing wrong-site surgeries, it's the responsibility of the facilities and their medical teams to ensure they never happen. The potential consequences to patients are just too grave.

If you or a loved one suffered from a serious error during surgery, an experienced medical malpractice attorney can pursue justice on your behalf, including conducting an in-depth investigation into what went wrong and why.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertising.


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