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.
Miller KE, Mims M, Paull DE, et al. JAMA Surg. 2014;149:774-9.
Wrong-site procedures result in significant patient harm, and prior studies have shown that—contrary to traditional assumptions—many of these errors occur outside the operating room. This analysis of 14 cases of wrong-site thoracenteses, a procedure to remove fluid from around the lung, identified several common themes in these errors. The majority of errors resulted in serious patient injury. Root cause analysis of the errors found that clinicians often failed to perform a time out and did not correctly document laterality in consent forms and clinical records. A case of a wrong-side thoracentesis that resulted in the death of a patient is discussed in a previous AHRQ WebM&M commentary.
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