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Wrong-site surgical errors can be catastrophic

Texas residents who have to undergo some form of surgery should be aware that wrong-site, wrong-procedure and wrong-patient errors, or WSPEs, can occur. Individuals who are victims of such medical errors could have legal recourse.

A wrong-site surgery can include operations that are conducted on the wrong side of the body or body part. For example, a more common occurrence among neurosurgeons is performing surgery on the incorrect level of the spine.

Orthopedic surgeons who observed surgeries for six months found that 59 percent of wrong-site surgeries were surgeries conducted on the wrong side. Nearly a quarter of the observed surgeries were conducted on the right side but on the incorrect site. Those were followed by wrong procedures at 14 percent and surgery being conducted on the wrong patient at 5 percent.

Although some WSPE cases can be very publicized, statistics indicate that such errors are somewhat rare. According to one study, the frequency at which such errors occur are about one out of every 112,000 surgical events. This corresponds to a single hospital experiencing a WSPE every five to 10 years.

However, it is important to note that only procedures that were performed in an operating room were included in the study. For procedures such as interventional radiology that are conducted in other settings, the rate of error is likely to be substantially higher. In fact, the results of one study that used Veterans Affairs data showed that 50 percent of WSPEs took place during procedures that were conducted in places other than the operating room.

A medical malpractice attorney may work to hold the responsible parties financially liable when surgical errors occur. The surgeon conducting the procedure and the medical facility in which they practice may be sued for financial damages.

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