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.
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.
Shah RK, Arjmand E, Roberson DW, et al. Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2011;137:69-73.
This study surveyed clinicians and discovered significant variation in their time-out and site-marking procedures in daily practice. The authors highlight the dynamic tension between national regulations and local interpretations of such policies.
Efforts to prevent wrong-site and wrong-patient surgical errors (WSPEs) initially focused on procedural disciplines and operating room procedures. However, this analysis of WSPEs that were voluntarily reported to a Colorado malpractice insurance company database found that a significant proportion of WSPEs were committed by physicians in non-surgical fields (such as internal medicine). Root cause analysis revealed a number of contributing causes, with diagnostic errors and communication errors the primary culprits. Interestingly, the injured patients did not file a malpractice lawsuit in the vast majority of cases. This study confirms and extends prior research showing that many WSPEs actually occur outside the operating room. The authors call for strict adherence to the Joint Commission Universal Protocol in order to prevent these never events.
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.
Garnerin P, Arès M, Huchet A, et al. Qual Saf Health Care. 2008;17:454-8.
This study combined implementation of verification protocols with periodic audits and feedback to increase compliance with patient identification in the prevention of wrong-patient and wrong-site surgery. While the process did improve, the authors advocate for technological solutions to address the limitations of purely manual systems. A related commentary [see link below] discusses the broader context of efforts to eliminate wrong-site surgery.
Michaels RK, Makary MA, Dahab Y, et al. Ann Surg. 2007;245:526-32.
Wrong site operations are rare and often occur when systems to prevent them fail. This study reviewed existing prevention strategies, such as the Joint Commission's Universal Protocol, to develop a framework for hospitals to assess their wrong site event prevention efforts. The proposed framework asks whether a behaviorally specific policy has been enacted and whether staff understand the policy, and goes on to recommend directly observing the policy being put into practice. The authors advocate standardized interventions utilizing effective methods to measure safety. A previous Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) WebM&M commentary discusses factors that place patients at risk for wrong site surgery.
A woman with a fractured right foot receives spinal anesthesia and nearly has surgery for trimalleolar fracture and dislocation of the left ankle. Only immediately prior to surgery did the team realize that the x-ray was not hers.
JCAHO; Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.
According to an AHRQ-supported study, wrong-site surgery occurred at a rate of approximately 1 per 113,000 operations between 1985 and 2004. In July 2004, The Joint Commission enacted a Universal Protocol that was developed through expert consensus on principles and steps for preventing wrong-site, wrong-procedure, and wrong-person surgery. The Universal Protocol applies to all accredited hospitals, ambulatory care, and office-based surgery facilities. The protocol requires performing a time out prior to beginning surgery, a practice that has been shown to improve teamwork and decrease the overall risk of wrong-site surgery. This Web site includes a number of resources and facts related to the Universal Protocol. Wrong-site, wrong-procedure, and wrong-patient errors are all now considered never events by the National Quality Forum and sentinel events by The Joint Commission. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have not reimbursed for any costs associated with these surgical errors since 2009.
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