How time outs affect the chances of wrong-site surgery

Wrong-site surgeries are all too frequent in Kentucky and the rest of the U.S. In fact, some reports say there are 20 to 40 wrong-site surgeries every week in this country. Orthopedic, dental and spinal surgeries are often wrong-site surgeries. WSS most often occurs with the laterality surgery, where an organ or extremity on the left or right side is operated on.

A WSS can arise from many issues, such as lack of teamwork (often the result of a silo mentality), lack of communication, communication errors on written or electronic orders and failure to educate employees on new policies. Above all, errors are rife wherever there is no safety-minded culture.

Errors frequently crop up during the time out, which is the final reassurance of accurate patient identity. Time outs play a crucial role, and the AORN has even established National Time Out Day to raise awareness of this fact (2019 saw the 15th anniversary of this event). The following are just a few things that surgical teams should do during the time out.

First, as part of a safety-minded culture, everyone should be free to express concerns, and leaders should address these in a timely manner. Surgical teams should involve patients, verifying the procedure with them. Time outs should be role-inclusive. Teams should not let distractions and limited time force them into uninformed decisions.

WSS can form the basis for a medical malpractice case when clear proof exists that the doctors were negligent. A victim must meet a few requirements for their claim to be valid, though. For example, there must be evidence of a preexisting doctor-patient relationship. A victim may wish to retain legal counsel since they are likely to meet resistance from the other side's own legal team. A lawyer may handle all settlement negotiations.

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O'Brien Batten & Kirtley, PLLC

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