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Do timeouts prevent surgical errors?

Surgical errors in Louisiana that involve performing the wrong procedure, operating at the wrong site or receiving an operation intended for a different patient are known collectively as WSPEs. They are among the most dramatic and terrifying medical errors that occur. If a surgeon commits a WSPE when operating on you or a loved one, the negative effects can be debilitating or even life-threatening. Another term for serious medical errors such as WSPEs is "never events," meaning that, in the absence of serious underlying safety issues, they should never occur at all.

Unfortunately, according to the Patient Safety Network, there is not even a consistent measure of how often they do occur. A commonly cited study indicated that, over the course of five to 10 years, an individual hospital may only see one WSPE on average. However, the study did not include procedures performed in a setting of interventional radiology or ambulatory surgery, only those performed in the operating room of a hospital. This means that the incidence of WSPEs may be higher than the research demonstrates. 

Since 2012, most surgical providers have adopted the Universal Protocol to prevent WSPEs and ensure patient safety during surgery. The Universal Protocol involves performing a surgical timeout during which all involved personnel agree to the aspects of the planned procedure. Another significant component of the Universal Protocol is marking the site of the surgery with the physician's initials to confirm the site with the patient. 

While the Universal Protocol represents an improvement over the methods previously in place to prevent WSPEs, adherence to it does not guarantee that a mistake will not occur. A surgeon under pressure may rush through the process, comprising its effectiveness. If you feel uncomfortable with the timeout or any other aspect of the presurgical preparation, discuss your concerns with your doctor. 

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.

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