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Farnborough, UK: Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch; June 3, 2021.

Wrong site/wrong patent surgery is a persistent healthcare never event. This report examines National Health Service (NHS) reporting data to identify how ambulatory patient identification errors contribute to wrong patient care. The authors recommend that the NHS use human factors methods to design control processes to target and manage the risks in the outpatient environment such as lack of technology integration, shared waiting area space, and reliance on verbal communication at clinic.
Graham C, Reid S, Lord TC, et al. Br Dent J. 2019;226:32-38.
Reporting and avoidance of “never events,” such as a wrong tooth extraction, is important for providing consistently safe dental care. This article describes changes made in safety procedures, including introducing surgical safety briefings or huddles in an outpatient oral surgery unit of the United Kingdom’s National Health Service, that eliminated never events for more than two years.
Neily J, Soncrant C, Mills PD, et al. JAMA Netw Open. 2018;1:e185147.
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.
Nelson PE. AORN J. 2017;105.
The Universal Protocol requires hospitals to adopt time outs as a strategy to prevent wrong-site surgeries. This commentary describes how one organization combined elements of time outs and the surgical safety checklist to augment communication and teamwork in surgical settings. Implementation of the enhanced time out involved targeted education and clarity around surgical roles and responsibilities.
Cohen E.
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.
Clarke JR. PA-PSRS Patient Saf Advis. 2015;12:19-27.
Wrong-site surgeries are considered never events by the National Quality Forum and sentinel events by The Joint Commission. Drawing from data submitted to the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority, this article analyzes 83 wrong-site extremity procedures in orthopedic surgery reported over 9 years and recommends site marking and time outs as strategies to prevent these incidents.
A man with suspected renal cell carcinoma seen on CT in the right kidney was transferred to another hospital for surgical management. The imaging was not sent with him, but hospital records, which incorrectly documented the tumor as being on the left side—were. The second hospital did not obtain repeat imaging, and the surgeon did not see the original CT prior to removing the wrong kidney.
Following biopsies for two skin lesions on his left cheek, a patient was sent to an outside surgeon for excision of squamous cell carcinoma. Although the referral included a description and diagram, the wrong lesion was removed.
Boodman SG.
This newspaper article reports on a case of wrong-site surgery and explores initiatives to prevent such errors, including the Universal Protocol and Partnership for Patients program.
Cohen FL, Mendelsohn D, Bernstein M. J Neurosurg. 2010;113:461-73.
This study found that communication breakdowns, inadequate preoperative checks, technical factors, and human error were the primary categories identified in assessing the root causes of wrong-site craniotomy. The authors suggest that the events were preventable had proper compliance with protocols taken place.
Devine J, Chutkan N, Norvell DC, et al. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2010;35:S28-36.
This systematic review of methods to prevent wrong-site surgery discusses the limitations of current preventive strategies, and proposes specific interventions to prevent wrong-site spinal surgery.
Cohen SP, Hayek SM, Datta S, et al. Anesthesiology. 2010;112:711-8.
Wrong-site surgeries are considered rare but devastating never events. However, a recent article suggested that wrong-site procedures may be more common than previously thought, since such errors can occur in procedures performed in areas other than the operating room. This study sought to evaluate the incidence of wrong-site surgery in pain management, using data from 10 facilities over a 2-year period. Although the overall incidence was low—only 13 cases were found with minimal associated patient harm—most cases were considered preventable, as clinicians failed to follow recommended preventive measures. A wrong-site surgery near miss is discussed in this AHRQ WebM&M commentary.
Neily J, Mills PD, Eldridge N, et al. Arch Surg. 2009;144:1028-34.
Wrong-patient and wrong-site surgeries are considered never events, as they are devastating errors that arise from serious underlying safety problems. This study used Veterans Administration data to analyze the broader concept of "incorrect" surgical procedures, including near misses and errors in procedures performed outside the operating room (for example, in interventional radiology). Root cause analysis was used to identify underlying safety problems. Errors occurred in virtually all specialties that perform procedures. The authors found that many cases could be attributed in part to poor communication that may not have been addressed by preoperative time-outs; for example, several cases in which surgical implants were unavailable would have required communication well before the day of surgery. The authors argue for teamwork training based on crew resource management principles to address these serious errors.