A wrong-site surgery could refer to one performed on the wrong side of the body, the wrong location on the body or even the wrong patient. The definition also refers to any invasive procedures performed in rooms other than an operating room. The joint commission considers all of these situations to be preventable because of the nature of the errors.
Most wrong-site surgeries result from communication failure, failure to comply with procedures or poor leadership. The risk increases in situations where the surgeons are unfamiliar with the case or operating equipment, during emergency situations and for surgeries with time constraints. A patient's physical deformity or obesity can also contribute to a higher risk of receiving an improper surgery.
In many wrong-site surgeries, the patient fails to receive the care needed because the surgeon operated on the wrong side or area of the body, which means that the problem that the surgery was to correct still exists. This could result in serious complications, especially in time-sensitive situations. In some cases, the surgery could even put undue strain on the patient for the remainder of his or her life. In many of these cases, the insurance company will refuse to pay for the improper procedure.
If a patient receives an improper surgery because of a doctor's negligence, that patient may be able to file a medical malpractice claim for any undue pain and suffering caused by the surgery. This claim could include compensation due to loss of income or earning potential if the surgery caused the patient to be unable to perform his or her normal work functions.
Source: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, "Wrong-Site Surgery", Deborah F. Mulloy; Ronda G. Hughes, September 19, 2014