The latest victim of wrong site surgery is a Minnesota man who underwent surgery to remove his cancerous kidney (read news story) The surgery seemed to go well- the kidney was successfully removed and on its way to the pathology lab. As the pathologists began testing the kidney, they realized it was cancer free. Was this a miracle? Unfortunately not.
The surgeon evidently removed the wrong kidney during surgery. Reports suggest that the kidneys were marked wrong in the patient’s chart and the doctors did not perform any additional diagnostic testing to verify the information was correct before they began.
The hospital has taken responsibility for the error and the surgeon is no longer working with patients at this time. The hospital will now also require diagnostic testing before all surgical procedures to ensure this kind of mistake does not happen again.
But what about the thousands of other hospitals across the US who do not perform diagnostic testing before a surgical procedure? Doctors and hospitals spend countless hours and millions of dollars lobbying congress for medical malpractice lawsuit caps. If they would just put the same amount of effort into patient safety programs and training, medical malpractice cases would naturally decrease. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure that out.
In the meantime, it is important for patients to stay on top of their own medical health. The operating room is a very chaotic place where a chart or patient mix up can easily happen. Before any surgical procedure, I would highly recommend that you take a big black marker and physically mark the area to be operated on. I would then point this area out to the doctor and make sure the chart reflects the same. If the doctor is not willing to discuss this with you, that should be a clear indication that patient safety is obviously not a priority.
More information on how to prevent surgical errors and wrong site surgery.