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Improving the time out may prevent wrong-site surgery

Anywhere from 20 to 40 wrong-site surgeries are performed every week across the country. California residents should know that wrong-site surgery is often preventable, especially during the time out that precedes surgery. For this and other reasons, the AORN has striven to raise awareness of the importance of time outs through its National Time Out Day, which reached its 15th anniversary in 2019.

Wrong-site surgery is most frequently reported after orthopedic, dental and spinal surgeries, and the most common type is where surgeons perform laterality surgery on an extremity or organ on the wrong side. Many factors can go into wrong-site surgery: poorly trained staff, lack of education on certain policies, communication breakdown, errors in relaying information through electronic or written orders and the all-around lack of a safety-minded culture.

One of the first things that surgical teams should do is make the time out period reflect a safety-minded culture. All should be allowed to voice concerns and raise red flags, and leaders should address these concerns quickly. Patients should be involved, and the team should verify what the procedure will be, on what site it will be performed and on what side. Medical centers may also focus on the scheduling process and on the preoperative area to look for ways to improve safety.

When wrong-site surgeries are clearly the result of negligence, victims are entitled to compensation under medical malpractice law. Filing a claim, though, could be difficult without a lawyer, so victims may want to schedule a case evaluation. Malpractice attorneys usually have a network of professionals who may investigate into the matter and measure the extent of victims' injuries. Attorneys may also handle all negotiations for a settlement, taking the case to court if one cannot be achieved.

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