Rhode Island Hospital Performed Surgery Wrong Body Part for Fifth Time

The Rhode Island Department of Health is investigating Rhode Island Hospital in Providence after the hospital admitted to operating on the wrong body part for another patient, marking at least the fifth wrong-site surgery at the hospital since 2007.

Hospital officials admitted this week that surgery was conducted on the wrong finger of a patient there last Thursday before staff caught the mistake and performed the operation again on the correct area.

Rhode Island Hospital was previously fined $50,000 after performing three operations on wrong parts of patients’ brains in 2007, and earlier this year the hospital operated on the wrong side of the mouth of a child with a cleft palate after a surgeon marked the wrong side before surgery.

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The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons describes wrong site surgery as a devastating, preventable surgical error caused by “poor preoperative planning, lack of institutional controls, failure of the surgeon to exercise due care, or a simple mistake in communication between the patient and the surgeon.” The academy notes that 84% of wrong site surgery lawsuits result in payments to plaintiffs, as opposed to 30% of other orthopedic surgery claims.

Wrong site surgery errors can be prevented by the surgeon consulting with the patient and then putting his or her initials on the proper operative site with a permanent marking pen before the patient is moved to the location of the procedure. The surgeon can then look for his initials and operates through them.

Proper record-keeping, pre-surgery checklists and surgical staff taking a “time-out” to discuss the procedure before cutting can also help eliminate wrong site surgery incidents.

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