Otolaryngology-head and neck surgery is vulnerable to wrong site errors and other challenges present in surgical care. This series of articles highlights key areas of importance for the specialty as they work to enhance patient safety. The 2022 installment covers the role of simulation.
Farnborough, UK: Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch; April 22, 2021.
Wrong-site surgery in dentistry is a frequent and persistent never event. This report examines a case of pediatric wrong tooth extraction to reveal how the application of safety standards is influenced by the work environment and discusses the use of forcing functions to create barriers to error in practice.
Olivarius‐McAllister J, Pandit M, Sykes A, et al. Anaesthesia. 2021;76:1616-1624.
UK Regulators measure never events to assess hospital safety culture and dictate reimbursement. The authors suggest that regulators focus on reducing the national never event rate through shared learning and an integrated system-wide approach, rather than concentrating on underperforming, outlier hospitals where factors such as safety culture maybe contributing to increased rates of never events.
Omar I, Singhal R, Wilson M, et al. Int J Qual Health Care. 2021;33:mzab045.
Never events, a significant type of adverse event, should never occur in healthcare. This study analyzed 797 surgical never events that occurred from April 2012 to February 2020 in the National Health Service (NHS) England and categorized them into three main categories: wrong-site surgery (53.58%), retained items post-procedure (44.54%), and wrong implant/prosthesis (1.88%). In total 56 common general surgery never events have been found. Being aware of the common themes may help providers to develop more effective strategies to prevent these adverse events.
Yonash RA, Taylor M. Patient Safety. 2020;2:24-39.
Wrong-site surgeries can lead to serious patient harm and are considered never events by the National Quality Forum. Based on events reported to the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Reporting System between 2015 and 2019, the authors identified an average of 1.42 wrong-site surgery events per week and found that three-quarters of events resulted in temporary or permanent patient harm. The authors present several evidence-based strategies to reduce the likelihood of wrong-site surgery, including preoperative and intraoperative verification, site marking, and timeouts.
Anderson JE, Watt AJ. Int J Qual Health Care. 2020;16.
Using a Safety-II framework, the authors used a mixed-methods approach to retrospectively analyze root cause analysis (RCA) reports of ‘never events’ occurring in the United Kingdom to characterize proposed actions, insights and recommendations to prevent future events. The analysis found that proposed actions were generally of low-to-moderate effectiveness, and that despite identifying systems challenges and weaknesses, many reports did not include proposed actions to mitigate or remove risks. The authors conclude that applying concepts from resilient healthcare can identify vulnerabilities and opportunities for strengthening the RCA system and improving the quality of RCA reports.
Geraghty A, Ferguson L, McIlhenny C, et al. J Patient Saf. 2020;16.
Operating room list errors are often cited as leading to wrong-side, wrong-site or wrong-procedure errors. This retrospective study analyzed two years of data from the United Kingdom and found that while no wrong-side, wrong-site or wrong-procedure surgeries were performed during the period, 0.29% of cases (86 cases) included a list error. Wrong-side list errors accounted for the majority of all list errors (72%). Tracking and reducing operating room list errors may help to prevent wrong-side, -site, or -procedure errors.
This retrospective study of dental patient safety reports in the military health system demonstrated an increase in reported events, which may reflect improvements in safety culture. Wrong-site surgery was the most common adverse event, suggesting the need to enhance safety practices in dentistry.
The Joint Commission and National Quality Forum both consider wrong-site, wrong-procedure, and wrong-patient surgeries to be never events. Despite improvement approaches ranging from the Universal Protocol to nonpayment for the procedures themselves and any consequent care, these serious surgical errors continue to occur. This study measured the incidence of incorrect surgeries in Veterans Health Administration medical centers from 2010 to 2017. Surgical patient safety events resulting in harm were rare and declined by more than two-thirds from 2000 to 2017. Dentistry, ophthalmology, and neurosurgery had the highest incidence of in–operating room adverse events. Root cause analysis revealed that 29% of events could have been prevented with a correctly performed time-out. A WebM&M commentary examined an incident involving a wrong-side surgery.
Deutsch ES, Yonash RA, Martin DE, et al. J Clin Anesth. 2018;46:101-111.
Wrong-site procedures are considered never events, yet they continue to occur. This review describes the incidence, impacts, and contributing factors of wrong-site nerve blocks. The authors recommend verifying the procedure and patient with multiple sources of information, using visible site markings, and employing time outs immediately prior to anesthetic use. A WebM&M commentary discussed an incident involving a wrong-site nerve block.
This commentary describes a case of wrong-site surgery, an erroneous breast biopsy, and the resulting disclosure of the error and investigation. Root cause analysis uncovered multiple process vulnerabilities. The authors suggest that errors provide opportunities to design system solutions to prevent errors.
Bathla S, Chadwick M, Nevins EJ, et al. J Patient Saf. 2021;17:e503-e508.
Wrong-site surgery represents a never event. In the United States, The Joint Commission requires marking of the surgical site prior to surgery as part of the Universal Protocol. Researchers conducted a survey study of 120 surgeons in the United Kingdom and found significant variation in adherence to the national mandate for preoperative surgical site-marking.
Boston, MA: Betsy Lehman Center for Patient Safety and Medical Error Reduction; 2016.
Cataract surgery, one of the most common procedures in the United States, is vulnerable to wrong-site errors. This consensus report reviews the types of errors associated with cataract surgery and discusses evidence-based practices to reduce risks.
Poor communication regarding medical errors can contribute to patient and family frustration and fear. Reporting on a case involving disclosure of a wrong-site surgery, this news article describes a resolution program to help patients cope after a preventable error. The program includes apology, disclosure, and explanation of what occurred as well as financial compensation.
Despite efforts to prevent wrong-site surgeries, they continue to occur. This commentary discusses a near miss resulting from human factors and inadequate team communication to underscore the importance of reporting and analyzing incidents to enhance individual practice and teamwork.
Hempel S, Maggard-Gibbons M, Nguyen DK, et al. JAMA Surg. 2015;150:796-805.
This systematic review examined surgical never events following the implementation of the Universal Protocol in 2004. Incidence estimates for retained surgical items and wrong-site surgery varied across studies, with median event rates approximately 1 per 10,000 and 1 per 100,000 procedures, respectively. There were many causes and contributing factors to these errors, but root cause analyses commonly called for better communication.
Despite large-scale efforts to prevent wrong-site surgeries, they continue to occur. This concept analysis found limited evidence regarding the role of nurses in wrong-site surgery and recommends that future research focus on theoretical frameworks around how preoperative nurses can help avert these never events.
McKinley J, Dempster M, Gormley GJ. Med Educ. 2015;49:427-35.
Wrong-side procedures still occur at alarming rates, particularly outside of the operating room. This study exposed medical students to various types of distractions and measured their ability to distinguish a person's left from right side from different perspectives. Cognitive distractions had a bigger negative impact than ambient ward noise on the students' performance.
Hudson ME, Chelly JE, Lichter JR. Br J Anaesth. 2015;114:818-24.
Wrong-surgery errors continue to occur despite their status as never events. This study found that wrong-site block occurred at a rate of about 1 per 10,000 nerve blocks, and these persisted even after implementation of time out procedures. The authors highlight the need to develop interventions to prevent these events.
This systematic review investigated root causes of wrong-site surgery and identified three vulnerabilities: transcription errors prior to surgery, intraoperative verification failures, and omitting steps in the verification process. The Universal Protocol does not mitigate these vulnerabilities, suggesting that further interventions are required to prevent wrong-site surgeries. A recent AHRQ WebM&M commentary provides an overview of wrong-site surgery and best practices to prevent it.
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