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.
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.
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