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Marking surgical sites can avoid wrong-site surgery

Wrong-site surgery is devastating when it happens. The patient trusts the doctor to perform the proper procedure, goes under from the anesthesia, and wakes up to find that a critical error has been made.

Often, this error is then compounded by the failure to resolve the initial issue. For instance, say that a person’s right lung has an advanced tumor and needs to be removed. A pneumonectomy is scheduled. The doctor accidentally removes the left lung — the healthy lung. Now the person has lost that vital organ that was supposed to allow them to survive after the surgery, and removal of the diseased lung isn’t possible.

Marking sites

There are numerous ways for doctors to strive to avoid such a critical error. One of the easiest is just to mark the site before the surgery. They can then confirm with the still-conscious patient — and their medical records — that it’s the right location.

One study asked doctors how often they would take this precaution. Approximately 75% said that they would always personally mark the surgical site. On the other side of the equation, only 3% said that they would never do so. The remaining portion did mark the sites sometimes or usually, but not all of the time.

What is clear is that, since errors still happen, marking the site should be even more common than it is. Most doctors are on-board with this method, but you could argue it should be universal and used in 100% of cases.

Life-changing mistakes

If you have suffered a serious injury or complication due to a doctor’s mistake, you need to know how to seek compensation.

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