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Wrong Site Surgery Lawsuit

Data from the National Practitioner Data Bank reveals that from 2010 to 2020, there were 9,744 paid medical malpractice claims associated with a wrong-site surgery. About 6.6% of patients died, 32.9% suffered from permanent injury, and 59.2% incurred temporary injury.

Recently, preventive measures were implemented to prevent errors and protect patients in the operating room. However, surgical errors still happen about 4000 times a year across hospitals in the US.


If you or a loved one suffered a surgical error, contact a medical malpractice attorney. One of our personal injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC will help you file a claim for compensation for a wrong-site operation or incorrect procedure.

Get a free consultation through our contact form or call our Chicago medical malpractice lawyers at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone call). All confidential or sensitive information you share with our legal team remains private through an attorney-client relationship.

What Is a Wrong Site Surgery (WSS)?

Wrong-site surgery is a generic term encompassing all surgical procedures performed on the wrong side of the body, wrong body part, and on a correct anatomic site but with the incorrect procedure.

Examples of Wrong-Site Surgeries

While many people perceive wrong-site surgery as rare, they do happen. Researchers believe medical negligence cases in the performed operating room go unreported.

Below are some examples of these medical errors:

  • Operation on the opposite side of the body: This surgical error occurs in body parts with paired structures such as kidneys, ovaries, or eyes. An example is during an intraocular lens implant, where the doctor operated on the right eye instead of the left.
  • Exact side but wrong body part: This type of surgery performed on the incorrect body part occurs when the surgeon confuses one body part with another due to similarities in anatomical structure. An example of this medical mistake is when a surgeon performed tendon repair on the precise hand but on the incorrect finger.
  • Correct body part and anatomical site but incorrect operation: The doctor operates on the intended body part and site but performs a different surgical procedure.One example is when a surgeon performs muscle resectioninstead of a recession.
  • Wrong patient: This type of medical negligence includes instances where medical professionals performed a cardiac procedure intended for another patient.

Causes of a Wrong Site-Surgery

Various factors contribute to the disruption of a smooth-running system. In surgery, errors often occur due to procedural gaps and inconsistencies that result in confusion among members of the medical team. Below are some of the causes of wrong-site surgeries:

  • Lack of a formal system to verify the site of surgery: A surgical error may occur due to a lack of a consistent universal system to verify the surgery site. For example, inconsistencies may result in surgeons interpreting a site marked “x” as the side to be done instead of the side to be left as is.
  • Failure to establish pre-operative protocols: Hospitals must establish a standard pre-operative protocol for their processes. An example of a pre-operative protocol is the use of surgical checklists.
    A checklist can help avoid surgical errors as it allows the medical staff to detect incorrect procedures that may lead to wrongful surgeries. With a predetermined checklist, the surgeons and other medical staff have the means to triple-check procedures before starting with the surgery.
  • Poor communication: Communication issue is a contributing factor to wrong-site surgery. For example, medical error is likely when staff members provide incorrect information to the doctor. Surgeons may also commit medical mistakes when they misunderstand their information.

In some cases, the members of the surgical team members fail to voice their concerns about incorrect procedures. There are also instances when some members did speak up about certain inaccuracies but were ignored.

Consequences of a Wrong-Site Surgery

Patients are not immediately aware that their doctor performed a wrong-site surgery on them in many instances. In other cases, the surgical error is identified early at the beginning of the surgery and is fixed immediately without adverse effects on patients.

For example, after injecting on the wrong part of the body, the doctor may perform the correct procedure on the intended body part. While this may not pose a risk, it results in an unnecessary procedure performed on the patient’s body.

Wrong-site surgery can be devastating, and some cannot be undone. Research showed that many patients suffered a lifetime of consequences due to unnecessary surgery, such as when a doctor removed a healthy body part.

The patient may need additional treatment and stay longer in the hospital in some cases. Some surgeries on the incorrect body part may also result in a patient’s temporary or permanent injury and sometimes even death.

Liability in a Wrong-Site Surgery

It can be simple to confirm that a doctor operated on the patient’s wrong body part. However, it can be challenging to attribute liability to the medical team members.

A surgical procedure in the wrong area is not solely attributed to the doctor’s error but also to the negligence of the whole medical team and the weakness of the medical facility.

Typically, the injured party and their families implicate surgeons in medical malpractice cases. However, nurses and other hospital staff may also carry responsibility for surgical errors. For example, if miscommunication resulted in the team’s failure to identify the correct site, the doctor, hospital staff, and the hospital may be liable.

Medical Malpractice and the Concept of Res Ipsa Loquitur

The term “res ipsa liquitor” is a Latin phrase that means “the thing speaks for itself.” When used in medical malpractice, this concept refers to cases where a doctor performed far below the expected standard of care that negligence is assumed.

Generally, an injured party in a medical malpractice lawsuit must successfully prove that the doctor breached a particular standard of care. Expert testimony is often required to confirm this breach of duty.

However, in res ipsa cases, expert testimony is not needed to confirm the lack of standard of care. Instead, the injured patients must prove the following:

  • It is common knowledge that the accident that injured the victim did not occur without a doctor’s negligence.
  • The medical treatment, including the surgical instruments, was under the doctor’s control
  • The injured person did not contribute to the injuries

Were you or a loved one involved in a case that may concern res ipsa loquitur? You should speak to a medical malpractice lawyer immediately.

Our experienced medical malpractice lawyers at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC offer a free consultation for victims of medical malpractice. We can help you understand your legal options and will also represent you in court when circumstances require.

Wrong-Site Surgical Lawsuit FAQs

Operating on the wrong side of the patient may result in life-threatening consequences. Here are frequently asked questions about cases where doctors operate on the wrong side.

How Often Do Wrong-Site Surgeries Happen?

Researchers from the University of Hopkins reveal that wrong-site surgery happens at least 20 times a week in the US.

Is Wrong Patient Surgery Also Considered Wrong-Site Surgery?

The American Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Organizations recently included wrong patient surgery and wrong procedures as instances of wrong-site surgery.

Can You Sue for a Mistake in Surgery?

A surgical mistake can have devastating consequences. A patient may incur increased medical bills, need corrective procedures, and be unable to work, resulting in lost wages. If you suffer from a mistake in surgery, you have the right to sue for this medical error to recover medical bills, lost wages, and pain.

How to Prove Medical Malpractice Involving a Medical Facility?

A medical facility can also be liable for medical errors in medical malpractice, including WSS. The patient may need to collect and present evidence to prove their case, including medical records and other relevant information.

What Happens When a Surgeon Performs Surgery on the Incorrect Side of the Body?

Medical professionals, including the doctor, nurses, and other hospital staff, are bound by their duty of care to their patients. They are expected to operate with due care and perform the right procedure on the right body part. So, working on the wrong body part should not happen to a patient during an operation.

A medical professional who fails to observe proper safety protocols can be liable for medical negligence. Many surgeons and their teams were negligent for failing to perform the standard surgical safety checklists, which is a ground for medical malpractice.

Our Medical Malpractice Attorneys Can Help With Your Wrong-Site Surgery Medical Malpractice Claim

The medical malpractice lawyers at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC represent people who suffered from wrong-site surgeries. Complete the contact form or call (888) 424-5757 for a free consultation. There is never a fee charged unless there is a recovery for you.

Our medical malpractice attorney advises on the best legal action that fits your specific situation. All confidential or sensitive information you share with our law firm remains private through an attorney-client relationship.


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