Don’t become the victim of a surgical error

CNN Health has a nice article on the steps you can take to lower the chances you’ll be the victim of a surgical error.

My Take?

Readers of this blog know how important I believe it is for you to be your and your child’s healthcare quarterback. If you do so, not only does the research show that you’re more likely to get better care, but it also shows that you’ll be less likely to be the victim of medical errors.

Surgical errors do happen, no matter how great or experienced the surgeon. It not only helps them, but it helps YOU to help THEM get it right. 

Here are just a few headlines from this last year:

Minnesota doctors remove the healthy kidney of a cancer patient while leaving the diseased one behind; 

California doctors remove the appendix of the wrong patient; 

One of the most experienced surgeons in a Boston, Massachusetts, hospital operates on the wrong side of a patient. 

To prevent surgical errors, particularly having a surgeon operate on the wrong side of you body, CNN’s suggests five steps:

1. Check out your doctor and hospital

Specifically, ask your doctor how many times he or she has done this procedure, and compare that with other physicians.

You can check out the hospital by going to HealthGrades or The Leapfrog Group, which rank hospitals by specialty. (For example, you can find good places to get hip surgery in Topeka, Kansas, or to have a baby in New York.) The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has detailed information about procedures performed at different hospitals.

2. Tell everyone who you are and why you’re having surgery.

You may feel like an idiot, but tell all the nurses and doctors your name, your date of birth, and what surgery you’re having (for example, “I’m John Smith, I was born 10/21/70, and I’m having arthroscopic surgery on my left knee.”). This can help prevent you receiving a surgery intended for someone down the hall. (Of course, if your name really is John Smith, you might want to give your address, too).

3. Make sure your doctor initials your site

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons urges its members to sign their initials directly on the site before surgery. Make sure your surgeon – not somebody else – does the signing and that it’s in the right place.

4. Confirm the surgery site with the surgeon right before the procedure

You may have already told the nurses, but it’s the surgeon who’s doing the actual cutting, so you need to tell him or her directly, says Dr. James Beaty, past president of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

“You should say, ‘I’m not going back to surgery until I see my doctor and we confirm that this is the right site,’ ” he said.

5. Train someone to be your advocate

Don’t just bring a friend or family member to your surgery; train them to advocate for you. You’re likely to be anxious and a little addled before the surgery (not to mention asleep during it), so you’ll need help.

“Equip them with the information they need,” advised Ilene Corina, president of PULSE of New York, a patient advocacy group. For example, your advocate can help you check the initials on the surgical site or help you contact your surgeon.

 

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