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Procedures used to prevent West Virginia wrong-site surgeries

No one doubts West Virginia health care providers have busy schedules or perform important, sometimes life-saving, tasks. Humans make mistakes, but some errors are less forgivable than others, particularly when someone else's health is endangered. Doctors and other service providers are obligated to meet high quality standards of care.

Many adverse events that occur in doctors' offices, hospitals and operating rooms are caused by medical professional negligence. Among the most disturbing mistakes are wrong-site surgeries - surgeons operating on the incorrect body part. The reasons for these errors are numerous and absolutely preventable.

Mistakes responsible for these unnecessary surgeries are often made in advance of an operation. The Joint Commission and professional medical associations agree Universal Protocol should be followed before, during and after each surgery to limit the chance for negligence. However, an agreement to act responsibly doesn't mean the actions are used in practice.

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons has recommended a joint effort between doctors, health care facilities and other providers to establish a set of rules to prevent surgical errors. This plan includes improved pre-surgical and postsurgical doctor-patient communications.

Doctors are encouraged to mark the site clearly where surgery is to take place, while in the presence of the patient. Other methods, like intraoperative X-rays, are used to pinpoint exact locations for spinal operations. The surgeon and members of the operating room staff would be responsible for verifying the site and planned procedure are correct -- before surgery takes place.

These preparatory measures can ensure a wrong-site surgery is avoided. Members of the surgical team also are expected to make sure all patient records and test results are present and accurate before surgery begins. The AAOS also insists surgeons be truthful with patients, as soon as possible, when mistakes occur.

Injured patients have a right to pursue compensation for medical malpractice injuries, whether or not surgeons admit errors occurred.

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