A doctor operating on the wrong part of your body is something you should never have to worry about as a surgery patient. It may seem like a mistake that all surgeons would be on the lookout for, but sometimes doctors fail to take precautions to avoid surgery errors.
A mistake made in surgery can cause serious medical problems or disability. Some patients even die. According to WebMD, there is a reason doctors might not take the possibility of wrong-site surgery and other surgical errors into account when preparing for surgery or while conducting it.
The uncommon nature of wrong-site surgery
Many people do not experience a wrong-site surgery or other errors during an operation. The small instances of wrong-site surgery mean doctors tend not to think that they could make such a mistake while operating. As a result, they do not take extra steps to confirm that they are operating on the right side of the body or on the correct organ or system of the body.
The WebMD article cites a doctor claiming that surgeons who make a mistake usually express surprise that it happened. They tend to say that they never imagined that they would commit a wrong-site error.
Inadequate information about surgical errors
Even if wrong-site surgeries do not happen to most people, they may occur to more patients than people generally know. A 2008 study from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that surgeons failed to report 86% of adverse events during surgery to hospitals. This could make surgical errors seem more uncommon than they actually are.
Some states are dealing with this problem by mandating their hospitals report adverse events. This information should help raise awareness of surgical errors and assist hospitals in changing their systems so they can avoid wrong-site surgery and other surgical mistakes.