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Wrong Site Surgery Malpractice Attorneys

What is Wrong Site Surgery?

Wrong site surgery occurs when a surgery is performed on the wrong side or site of the body, the wrong procedure is performed, or surgery is performed on the wrong patient.  According to the National Institutes of Health, wrong site surgery further encompasses any procedure the exposes the patients to more than a minimal risk.

How Common Are Wrong Site Surgeries?

Wrong site surgery is the third most common “Sentinel Event.” That means it is the third most-common unexpected occurrence involving the risk of death or serious injury in a healthcare facility. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, wrong site surgery occurs in one out of every 112,994 surgeries. Considering that there are over 50,000,000 surgeries in America ever year, this number adds up to far too many inexcusable medical errors.

According to American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons research, 43.9 percent of orthopedic spine surgeons admitted to performing a wrong site spine surgery. An orthopedic surgeon has a 25 percent chance of making a wrong-site error during a 25 year career.

What Type of Procedures Go Wrong?

Any type of surgery or potentially dangerous medical procedure can result in a wrong site surgery. This can range from a minor inpatient procedure up to a heart transplant or amputation. Some studies indicate that up to thirty percent of wrong-site surgeries are spine surgery mistakes in which the wrong level of the spine is operated upon.

Some type of wrong-site surgeries which have occurred include:

  • Fusing the wrong vertebrae together
  • Operating on the wrong side of the body
  • Operating on the wrong patient
  • Removing a healthy kidney or other organ
  • Removing a healthy limb
  • Operating on the wrong patient
  • Fertility treatment causing pregnancy from unrelated parents

What Are the Complications of Wrong Site Surgery?

The complications of wrong site surgery vary depending upon the form of surgery required and the surgery actually done. A wrong site surgery can result in serious injury, disability, disfigurement, or death.

Most surgeries will include two basic types of harm. First, a person is may be injured by what happened in the unnecessary surgery. Secondly, the person is harmed by not receiving the necessary treatment (such as cancer removal). Some examples of this include:

  • Wrongful amputation
  • Disfigurement
  • The continued spread of disease, such as cancer
  • Blindness
  • Improper removal of an organ
  • Inability to operate on the correct body part (such as if the good kidney is removed)
  • Paralysis
  • Birth injuries
  • Loss of sensation
  • Brain damage

How To Prevent Wrong Site Surgery

Wrong-site surgery is a “never event.” This means that it is something preventable that should absolutely never happen. Wrong site surgeries are entirely preventable if proper steps are taken to protect patients.

The Joint Commission, an independent organization that certifies healthcare programs, has established a Universal Protocol for Preventing Wrong Site, Wrong Procedure, and Wrong Person Surgery.  When followed, the Universal Protocol drastically reduces the likelihood of a wrong site surgery.  The protocol requires medical staff to do the following:

  • Thoroughly discuss the procedure with the patient and family prior to surgery
  • Clearly mark the part of the patient’s body that requires operation before surgery
  • Use checklists to ensure that all equipment and information needed is accessible
  • Once the patient is in the operating room, have a “Time out” during which the procedure is discussed and all important details are confirmed

Most wrong site surgeries can be prevented through confirming patient information or ensuring that a “time-out” is properly done. Unfortunately, the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons has called the efforts to address wrong site surgery as “unsuccessful.”

How Wrong Site Surgery Malpractice Happens

Although preventable, wrong site surgeries happen due to carelessness, arrogance, fear, or haste.  Many doctors believe that they would never commit a wrong-surgery mistake, so they fail to participate or listen in time outs. Many doctors prize their autonomy and resist authority, so they will not comply or give undivided attention to safety protocols. This may result in skipping checklists or “ritualized compliance” in which doctors go “through the motions,” but do not adequately ensure patient safety.

These life-shattering “never events” occur due to reasons such as the following:

  • Poor planning
  • Lack of checklist
  • Haste or time pressures
  • Failure to follow established surgical protocol
  • Unusual patient anatomy (such as morbid obesity)
  • Inadequate site markings.
  • Failing to verify the patient, procedure, site, and side
  • Failure to verify the surgery site
  • Failure to mark surgical site
  • Placing site marking at the wrong place
  • Covering or accidently removing site markings
  • Incorrect reading of x-rays and other imaging
  • Involvement of too many doctors
  • Doctors being under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Poor communication in the operating room
  • Patient misidentification
  • Illegible writing in the medical record
  • Distractions
  • Time out occurs too early
  • Time-out occurred without full participation
  • Time-outs never occur
  • Performing time-out without referring to patient documentation
  • Failure to distinguish between sites when multiple procedures are being done on multiple body parts
  • Staff not feeling empowered to speak up if they notice something wrong
  • Inaccurate medical records
  • Mixed-up medical records
  • Patient not having an accurate wristband
  • Marking incorrect vertebrae
  • Inconsistent organizational focus on safety

Are you a Victim of Wrong Site Surgery?

Our firm has the background and experience to investigate and pursue wrong site surgery claims. We will develop a customized plan to uncover the truth to find out what really happened. This usually includes getting your medical records quickly, having those records reviewed by experts, and using legal processes to get answers from your healthcare providers.

If you believe that you may have been the victim of a wrong site surgery and our investigation supports this type of malpractice, our firm can help you get the compensation you need and deserve to help offset all of your harms, losses, and damages.


If you believe that you are a victim of wrong site surgery, call Gupta Law Group – we help people and families throughout Illinois and Indiana. You can also email us to schedule a free consultation with an experienced lawyer. Cases are taken on a contingency fee basis. That means you do not owe us anything unless your claim is successful and results in compensation.