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Wrong-site surgery leaves women with permanent injuries

Despite the fact that hospital safety experts often characterize wrong-site surgeries and wrong-person surgeries as "never events," these errors actually occur surprisingly often. The reason such tragic surgical errors are referred to as "never events" is not that they do not occur, but that with proper vigilance and adequate supervision they should never occur. Maryland readers might be interested in the following story about a tragic brain surgery mistake.

A 53-year-old patient who underwent a craniotomy bypass in Missouri is suing both the hospital where the surgery was performed and her neurosurgeon after the surgeon operated on the wrong side of her skull and brain. According to the news reports, the woman began experiencing strokes about five years ago. In an effort to slow the deterioration the strokes were causing to her health, a craniotomy bypass surgery was scheduled to be performed.

In April, the woman was scheduled for a left-sided craniotomy bypass to prevent any future strokes. Instead, she received a right-sided craniotomy. Prior to the surgery, the woman was reportedly mobile, cognizant and capable of taking care of herself. Since the surgical error, she is now unable to speak, requires constant care, and will likely suffer from ongoing pain and suffering, including emotional distress, anxiety, disfigurement and serious depression.

According to the Journal of Neurosurgery, there were 35 cases of wrong-side craniotomies between 1996 and 2009. While this may sound like a small number of surgical errors, the fact remains that such tragic and life-altering events should never happen. Furthermore, additional medical malpractice cases involving wrong-sided craniotomies may have been settled without being reported. In such cases, the surgical error is never brought to the medical board.

Source: St. Louis Today, "Lawsuit accuses surgeon of operating on wrong side of woman's brain," Jim Doyle, April 30, 2013

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