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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.
Engelhardt KE, Barnard C, Bilimoria KY. JAMA. 2017;318:2033-2034.
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.
Ragusa PS, Bitterman A, Auerbach B, et al. Orthopedics. 2016;39:e307-10.
Checklists are a popular strategy to improve teamwork and prevent errors. Reviewing the evidence on the use of checklists in surgery, this commentary highlights how the tool and associated time out have reduced some adverse events and helped to manage hierarchy in the operating room.
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.
Watson DS. AORN J. 2015;101:650-6.
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.
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.
Abecassis ZA, McElroy LM, Patel RM, et al. J Surg Res. 2015;193:88-94.
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.
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.

Chicago, IL: American Hospital Association, Health Research and Educational Trust, and Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare; 2014.

Wrong-site surgery is a never event, but still occurs at alarming rates. This report discusses risks related to wrong-site surgery, along with their root causes, and describes initiatives associated with a Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare project. The authors highlight improvements in scheduling surgeries, preoperative processes, operating room preparations, and organizational culture that substantially reduced wrong-site surgeries in the eight hospitals participating in the program. A prior AHRQ WebM&M commentary by Dr. Charles Vincent discussed a case of a wrong-site procedure.
Collins SJ, Newhouse R, Porter J, et al. AORN J. 2014;100:65-79.e5.
Organizations including The Joint Commission, the World Health Organization, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have focused on improving surgical safety. Using Reason's Swiss cheese model, this review analyzes the evidence for surgical checklist implementation to determine its usefulness in preventing wrong-site surgery and recommends tactics to address weaknesses.
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.
Alam M, Lee A, Ibrahimi OA, et al. JAMA Dermatol. 2014;150:550-8.
Excisional skin cancer surgery is a common procedure often performed many days after an initial biopsy by a different physician, making it particularly vulnerable to wrong-site surgery. This study provides a range of consensus recommendations for medical professionals and patients to reduce such risks.
Davis JS, Karmacharya J, Schulman CI. J Patient Saf. 2012;8:151-2.
Describing a case of duplicate surgical site markings on a patient's legs, this article reveals how hospital protocol and medical record review prevented wrong-site surgery.
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.