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What should Maryland patients know about surgical errors?

Maryland surgical procedures, no matter how seemingly simple, take a lot of planning, precision and skill. The idea of having an operation on the wrong body part seems like something straight out of a horror film. Unfortunately, this horror can happen in real life, as in the past, doctors have been guilty of wrong-site surgery. Maryland patients should be aware of the situation to avoid being a victim of such a dangerous medical error.

What is wrong-site surgery? Wrong-site surgery is when a physician, doctor or surgeon operates on the incorrect limb or organ of the patient. This is not only a problem for the medical practitioner, but can lead to a significant medical problems for the patient as well. Patients can incur serious injury, infection and other complications due to the surgical error. What factors contribute to wrong-site surgery? Lack of pre-operative planning, hospital controls and a medical practitioner's failure to give standard care are known contributors of the surgical mistake.

Are there any ways to prevent wrong-site surgery? Yes. One of the simplest ways to prevent such a costly mistake is for medical practitioners and patients to communicate. Before surgery, a surgeon typically consults with a patient and the surgeon writes his or her initials on the area to be operated on with a marker. Proper documentation of a patient's condition can also help. In addition, the surgical team can take a "time out" before the surgery to discuss the procedure. This assures that everyone understands their respective roles and is aware of surgery information.

What can Maryland patients do if they are victims of wrong-site surgery? In this kind of situation, time is of the essence. Patients may wish to seek legal guidance to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. The issue itself needs to be addressed and resolved immediately, as the patient will likely need corrective surgery and funds for medical expenses. Despite the urgency, patients need to carefully consider malpractice settlements if a claim would be in their best interests.

Source: Aaos.org, "Wrong-Site Surgery," accessed on Oct. 2, 2014

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