Wrong-site surgeries are relatively rare, but they do occur more often than anyone would like. In fact, this type of surgical error is often referred to as a “never event,” or a medical mistake that should never happen to patients.
Yet, surgeons sometimes operate on the wrong body part. Sometimes they replace the left knee instead of the right, or operate on the right kidney instead of the left. And in one terrifying recent case, a woman had the wrong side of her brain operated on, leaving her in a wheelchair and unable to speak.
The woman had been suffering from small strokes for several years. Her surgeon was supposed to operate on the left side of her brain to try to repair the issue behind the strokes. Photographs from before the surgery show that someone had marked the left side of her head to indicate where to operate.
But post-surgery pictures show bandaging on the right side of her head. The surgeon had operated on the wrong side of her brain. The incisions on the previously healthy side of her brain has left her unable to walk or speak clearly.
How could such a seemingly obvious mistake happen? The woman’s attorney thinks it took negligence from every medical professional in the operating room to ignore the marking on the patient’s head. Common ways for wrong-site surgeries to occur is when the surgeon fails to check the medical records, the attorney said. In other cases, a canceled operation causes confusion on a busy day.
Regardless of how it happens, never events are frequently due to medical malpractice and can cause long-lasting harm to the patient. One way to help protect yourself is to check up on your surgeon’s record through the Illinois Hospital Report Card website. The site keeps records of malpractice suits filed against doctors in the state.
Source: WTSP-TV, “Doctor, St. Louis hospital sued for wrong-side brain surgery,” July 31, 2013