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What is the most common kind of wrong-site surgery?

Surgical operations can remove tumors, repair traumatic damage and even replace a joint that no longer functions. When properly performed, surgeries can correct medical issues or improve someone’s quality of life, all with minimal pain despite how invasive the procedure really is.

Surgeries can produce incredible results, but they also come with notable complication risks. Some complications are the result of a patient’s medical condition, like having a bad reaction to anesthesia.  Other adverse outcomes after surgery are the results of medical mistakes.

Surgical errors can be some of the most catastrophic kinds of medical mistakes. Wrong-site surgeries involve a physician performing a procedure in the wrong location, often with long-term medical consequences. There are several kinds of wrong-site surgeries that occur every year in the United States. What is the most common kind?

Doctors sometimes operate on the wrong side of the body

Maybe you have severe carpal tunnel in your dominant hand and need surgery to regain lost work function. Perhaps you have a tumor in one kidney that requires its removal.

Unfortunately, around 59% of the wrong-site procedures performed every year will involve a physician operating on the wrong side of the body. Those who analyze medical mistakes estimate that roughly one in every 112,000 procedures will result in a wrong-site error. All of those, approximately 3/5 will involve a surgeon performing the procedure on the wrong side of the body.

Such mistakes can have catastrophic consequences, especially if the doctor amputates or removes a healthy body part.

What are the other wrong-site procedures?

There are several other kinds of wrong-site procedures that can negatively affect patients. About 14% of wrong-site surgeries involve a doctor performing the wrong procedure on someone. Another 5% involve a surgeon operating on the wrong patient.

The remaining 23% of wrong-site surgeries may involve another location error while performing a surgery on the right patient. The surgeon performs the right procedure on the right person and on the right side of their body, but they operate in the wrong location nonetheless.

Recognizing wrong-site procedures as a preventable surgical mistake can help you take the right steps when a major medical mistake affects your family.