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Medical Malpractice Claims Involving Wrong-Site Surgery

Posted on behalf of Peter T. Nicholl in Medical Malpractice Published on July 3, 2024 and updated on July 11, 2024.

surgeon grabbing tool for procedureThere are various forms of medical malpractice, but one of the most egregious may be wrong-site surgery. It seems almost unexplainable that doctors could do so much preparation only to operate on the wrong part of your body.

In this blog, The Law Offices of Peter T. Nicholl will discuss wrong-site surgery, common injuries and long-term complications that arise from this form of malpractice, preventive measures and how victims can seek compensation.

If you or a loved one has suffered injuries from a wrong-site surgery in Maryland, The Law Offices of Peter T. Nicholl is here to help. We have obtained millions for victims of medical malpractice. Contact our Maryland medical malpractice lawyers to learn about your legal options. There are no fees or expenses unless we win compensation for you.

Call us at 410-297-0271 for your free consultation today.

What is Wrong-Site Surgery?

Wrong-site surgery happens when doctors perform surgery on the incorrect body part, the wrong side of the body or even the wrong patient. Wrong-site surgery can lead to significant physical and emotional harm for the patient, including:

  • Unnecessary pain
  • Potential loss of function
  • Corrective surgeries

Wrong-site surgeries are considered “never events” in healthcare, meaning they are preventable incidents that should not occur, even though they do.

There are various reasons why doctors operate on the wrong body part or patient, including:

  • Poor communication among surgical team members
  • Inadequate preoperative planning
  • Failure to verify patient information and the proper site for surgery

Hospitals should use various protocols to avoid wrong-site surgery, such as preoperative checklists, surgical site marking, and taking the time to confirm the correct patient, procedure, and site before making an incision.

Is Wrong-Site Surgery Always Medical Malpractice?

While every case is unique, you would be hard-pressed to find a case of wrong-site surgery that was not considered medical malpractice. That said, victims need to review their situation with a qualified lawyer.

Medical malpractice refers to a failure to perform up to accepted medical standards, and patients should reasonably expect doctors to perform the correct procedure.

That said, you still have the burden of proof. You must establish that doctors performed the wrong procedure, and this directly resulted in your injuries.

You must also prove the doctor’s actions did not meet the standard of care. The standard of care in medical malpractice cases is the expected level of care and skill a healthcare professional with a similar background would provide in similar circumstances. Your lawyer could support your claim with evidence of poor pre-operation planning or miscommunication between doctors and medical staff.

Common Injuries Associated with Wrong-Site Surgery and Other Surgical Errors

Wrong-site surgeries can lead to significant injuries that can affect every area of a victim’s life, such as:

Physical Harm

Surgical errors like improper technique, inadequate sterilization or operating on the wrong body part can cause nerve damage, infections and loss of function. These errors lead to unintended harm and complications, requiring extensive medical treatment and rehabilitation, and resulting in prolonged pain and suffering for patients.

Emotional and Psychological Trauma

The emotional and psychological impact of surgical errors can have a devastating effect. Patients may experience stress, anxiety or depression as a result of a botched surgery. The trauma of undergoing an incorrect procedure can leave lasting scars on a patient’s mental health, affecting his or her overall well-being.

Secondary Surgeries

Wrong-site surgeries often require additional surgeries to correct the initial mistake. These corrective procedures carry their own risks and complications, such as infections and excessive bleeding that can endanger your health. The need for multiple surgeries can also lead to increased medical expenses and extended recovery times.

Complications Resulting from Wrong-Site Surgical Errors

The numerous types of complications that may occur from wrong-site surgical errors include:

Chronic Pain

Patients who have undergone wrong-site surgeries may suffer from chronic pain due to the mistake. This continuous discomfort can significantly impact their quality of life, making everyday activities challenging and diminishing their overall happiness.

Long-Term Disability

Surgical errors can result in long-term or permanent disabilities, such as paralysis, memory loss or difficulty concentrating, affecting your ability to think or perform tasks. Long-term disabilities often require ongoing medical care and support as well.

Impact on Quality of Life

The repercussions of surgical errors extend beyond physical and emotional harm. Patients may experience a significant decline in their ability to perform daily activities. The financial strain of medical bills, combined with the inability to work, can place unbearable stress on your family and support network.

How Medical Professionals Can Prevent Wrong-Site Surgeries

There are several simple and practical measures that doctors and other health care professionals can take to prevent wrong-site surgeries from occurring. If you were a victim of wrong-site surgery, your lawyer may look for evidence that doctors and others failed to take some of the steps below.

Effective Hospital Policies

Hospitals play a crucial role in preventing wrong-site surgeries by implementing strict policies and protocols. One widely recognized protocol is the Universal Protocol, which includes a preoperative verification process, marking the surgical site and taking a “time-out” before the procedure begins to ensure accuracy.

For example, that is why doctors will often ask you multiple times if you are allergic to any medication or what procedure you are having done.

Education and Training

Continuous education and training for surgical staff are vital in reducing surgical errors. Medical professionals should stay updated on the latest safety protocols and best practices. Regular training sessions can help reinforce the importance of establishing and following procedures and guidelines.

Technological Aids

Tools such as barcoding systems and surgical planning software can reduce the likelihood of wrong-site surgical errors.

Pre-Operative Planning

Thorough pre-operative planning is essential in minimizing the risk of surgical errors. Thorough checklists and patient verification processes should be in place to confirm all necessary information before surgery. This helps to prevent miscommunication.

Surgical Marking Protocols

Using surgical markers to indicate the correct site of surgery is an effective preventive measure. This practice is endorsed by medical boards and safety organizations and helps ensure that the surgical team operates on the correct area. Clear and visible markings can prevent confusion and errors during surgery.

Team Communication

Effective communication among surgical team members is critical in preventing wrong-site surgeries. Clear, open dialogue before and during procedures can help identify and address any discrepancies or concerns.

Patient Involvement

Patients should be asked to confirm the surgical site and procedure they are undergoing. This involvement can help catch any mistakes before the surgery begins and ensure that the patient feels confident in their care.

Call Our Maryland Law Firm for Legal Help After Medical Malpractice

If you or a loved one has been affected by a wrong-site surgery, understanding your legal options and pursuing compensation can be a daunting task. The Law Offices of Peter T. Nicholl is dedicated to helping victims of medical malpractice navigate this challenging process.

Our lawyers work on a contingency basis, which means we do not get paid unless we are able to recover compensation for you.

Contact us at 410-297-0271 to learn if you have a case.