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Adv Surg. 2008;42:13-31.

Wrong-site surgery: can we prevent it?

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Drexel University College of Medicine, 245 North 115th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102, USA.


Wrong-site surgery happens frequently enough that it is a significant risk for many surgeons during their professional careers. But it is an event that should never happen. Most wrong-site surgery is wrong-side surgery, followed by wrong-digit and wrong-vertebral-level surgery. Wrong-site surgery results from misinformation or misperception of the patient's orientation. The key to preventing wrong-site surgery is to have multiple independent checks of critical information. Discrepancies among the operative record, consent, and the surgeon's record of the history and physical examination should ideally be resolved prior to the day of surgery to avoid time-consuming reconciliations. We noted that the preoperative verification was the most effective of the three steps of the Universal Protocol and that the patient was a more reliable source of accurate information than the documents. Marking the operative site gives patients a voice after they are sedated or anesthesia is induced. Wrong-site surgery has involved local or regional anesthesia at the wrong site when anesthesiologists did not adhere to formal time-outs for their procedures. Surgeons need to have access to all relevant information and to be engaged in the processes to prevent wrong-site surgery, particularly in the final time-out. Junior members of the operating room team must be made comfortable about speaking up if concerned. During spinal surgery, the vertebral level needs to be confirmed radiographically. Wrong-site surgical problems can occur after an operation if accurate information is not provided to accompany the specimen or if leftover labels from a previous patient are used to identify the specimen.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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