New Jersey Medical Malpractice Attorneys Helping Injured Victims of Wrong Site Surgery
Wrong site surgery may occur when a surgeon operates on the wrong side of the body, the wrong body part, the wrong patient, or on the correct side at the wrong level. All of these preventable mistakes can lead to serious consequences for victims.
As unimaginable as it may seem, surgeons operate on the wrong body party more often than you believe. As many as 4,000 wrong site surgeries, or 20 per week, occur across the nation annually, according to the National Practitioner Data Bank, a government-sponsored online collection of medical malpractice information. Not only do wrong site surgeries occur more often than you would think, but the numbers are most likely higher as hospitals and doctors may not report some of these adverse events.
One study suggests one in 100,000 surgeries are wrong-site errors, with approximately ten percent going unreported. Though there are many causes for this type of surgical error, ignoring protocols in place to prevent wrong site accidents is one of them. Although many different surgical mishaps involving the wrong side of the body, wrong patient, wrong body part, or wrong location may occur, these catastrophic errors can lead to equally catastrophic consequences for those who experience them. If you or a loved one has been injured by a wrong site surgery in New Jersey, it is important to know your rights and the potential options you may have to file a claim for compensation for your injuries and the associated physical, psychological, and financial losses you suffered.
Most Common Examples of Wrong Site Surgery
Wrong side and wrong body part surgeries are the most common sources of wrong site negligence. They may also include the correct body part or region but the incorrect procedure. For instance, a patient undergoing surgery for several sites along the spine may suffer irreparable injury when a surgeon performs a spinal fusion rather than a laminectomy (removing disk spurs), restricting the patient’s mobility as a byproduct of the wrong surgery at the right site. Another example of wrong site surgeries is when a doctor surgically removes a patient’s right kidney when it should be the left. Unfortunately, operating on the wrong side of the body is one of the most common wrong site mishaps.
Other wrong site mishaps occur when the surgery is performed on the correct body part but at the wrong level, for instance, the wrong disc in the spine. The last instance of wrong site surgeries includes the correct surgery on the wrong patient. All wrong site operations are deemed sentinel events by the Commission, meaning serious outcomes to healthcare mistakes.
Wrong Site Surgery Causes
Preventing these types of surgical errors requires a review of their causes. Besides ignoring protocol, some hospitals or surgical centers lack protocols to verify the correct surgical site. Medical personnel do not mark the right surgical site as a matter of course, or their practices lack uniformity. When some lab technicians mark a scan showing the correct side for the surgery, but the surgeon interprets the marking as the wrong side, an incorrect site error is likely to occur.
Adhering to strict protocols for time-outs in which to go through a preoperative checklist may be another source of error. However, communication errors throughout the hospital or other medical sites may cause large-scale errors daily. Not communicating or miscommunicating important information to the surgeon can lead to mistakes. An error may be identifiable as the surgeon’s sole error in some cases, while in others, the error is attributable to a system-wide breakdown with several responsible parties. The cause of these tragedies is system-wide communication breakdowns in far too many cases.
Prevention Strategies to Avoid Wrong Site Surgery
To address the recurring error of wrong-site surgery, the healthcare accrediting body, The Joint Commission, recommends marking the patient’s body location with a “yes” or other directional to avoid wrong-site procedures. Though others recommend negative marking, writing a “no” or other warning words where the procedure or surgery is not to take place, negative marking proponents believe marking the wrong side would catch a busy surgeon’s attention and avoid error or confusion. The Commission further recommends patient identification confirmation and a slowed reset time to verify the procedural details carefully.
Taking the necessary time to confirm the correct side of the body and the right body part for the procedure could help to alleviate wrong-site errors. With the bustling surgery calendar of most physicians, time is at a premium, and most surgeons do not stop and breathe before taking on the next patient. However, the Commission claims malpractice claims for operating on the wrong finger or vertebra, for instance, may decline if consistent correct-side (or wrong-side) labeling and verification procedures were the norm in hospitals.
Regardless of the method the medical community chooses to tackle the problem, one thing is clear: these preventable and tragic mistakes, termed “never events,” result in grave injuries and fatalities.
Range of Injuries and Complications from Wrong Site Surgeries
The consequences of wrong site surgery can lead to unnecessary procedures on the one hand, and death on the other. For instance, a surgeon who injects cortisol into one knee but then corrects their mistake by injecting the other knee may not do much harm to a patient other than enduring twice as much discomfort and unnecessary treatment. At the other end of the spectrum of potential complications, removing the wrong kidney to prevent the spread of cancer can lead to a patient’s death.
Liability for Wrong Site Surgery and Determining who is Responsible
It can be overwhelming for a person not to know what happened to them when wrong site surgery errors occur, why they happened, and who is responsible. Having an experienced medical malpractice attorney unravel some of the mystery through knowledge of how wrong site surgical mishaps occur and a thorough investigation of the events is critical. Since an injured victim of wrong site surgery must identify who caused their injury to recover compensation for their injuries, those who want to file a lawsuit must investigate all who participated in the surgery.
Sometimes proving that a specific individual performed their duties below the standard of care required of them, given their training, education, and experience is not easy. This is why the team of highly knowledgeable New Jersey medical malpractice lawyers at Fronzuto Law Group can serve a vital role in the investigation, preparation, negotiation, litigation, and ultimate success of your case.
A case may be convoluted by many surgeons, assistants, and nurses involved in a procedure. We comb through medical records, investigating everything from the hospital’s preoperative measures before the operation, to the surgeon who oversaw the procedure, and any of the nurses, lab technicians, radiologists, anesthesiologists, and other medical staff who may have been involved. We are skilled in finding the factors, actions, oversights, and missteps that may have contributed to your injuries from wrong site surgery. Using our decades of experience in medical malpractice law, we then devise the most comprehensive case to prove and hold the responsible party or parties accountable.
Contact a Distinguished Medical Malpractice Lawyer to Discuss Your Wrong Site Surgery Case
If you incurred enormous medical bills from unnecessary procedures or ongoing treatment for injuries induced by wrong site surgery, you may be able to sue the responsible parties for your monetary losses, past, present, and future, including your lost wages, as well as other costs associated with your injuries and your pain and suffering. You may have grounds for a claim against all of those who perpetuated or participated in the medical negligence that contributed to your injuries, including hospital staff and the hospital itself if the injury occurred at a hospital in New Jersey. All parties who failed to live up to their professional standards and duty to their patients in the course of your medical care may be liable.
With the right help from our legal team, there may be strong evidence of negligence to support a medical malpractice lawsuit that we can uncover and use to seek maximum compensation for your injuries and the associated losses you incurred. Call Fronzuto Law Group today at 973-435-4551 or fill out our online form for a free consultation.