Hospital Performs Brain Surgery on Wrong Side Three Times

September 9, 2009
By Dan Irving Cytryn, Esq. on September 9, 2009 4:55 PM |

ABC News reported (November 27, 2007) that a Rhode Island hospital was fined $50,000 for committing three serious surgical errors in one year. In two cases, the neurosurgeons operated on the wrong side of the patients head. In the third case, a neurosurgeon drilled on the right side even though the patient's CAT scan showed bleeding on the left side of the brain, but fortunately the error was caught and the hole was closed so that the surgery could proceed on the correct side.

Here are some additional recent examples of wrong site surgery:

  • A Chicago area man had surgery performed on the wrong knee, resulting in serious injury to a healthy knee and unanticipated medical bills.
  • A man was permanently disabled because the surgeon fused the bone in the wrong ankle.
  • A 52-year-old Florida man had the wrong leg amputated and received compensation of $900,000 from the hospital and $250,000 from the surgeon.
  • The right kidney of an 84-year-old woman was mistakenly removed instead of her gall bladder.
  • A 17-year-old girl received the wrong heart and lungs in a transplant and eventually died.
According to the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) Sentinel Event Statistics, between 1995 and June 30, 2009 there were 837 cases of wrong site surgery.

Minimize the Probability of Surgery on the Wrong Site

You can take steps to help prevent wrong site surgery:

  • Investigate your doctor's credentials to determine Board Certification(s) and how many of the same procedures he/she has performed.
  • Investigate the quality of the hospital and its ranking in various specialty areas at websites such as:
    • United States Department of Health and Human Services
    • HealthGrades
    • Consumer Reports
  • Tell the nurses and doctors your full name, why you are having the surgery, and your date of birth. While this may sound obvious, there is at least one known case of two people with the same names but different middle initials having surgery in the same hospital at the same time but for different reasons.
  • Be sure that the doctor initials the site of the surgery as recommended by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

To protect yourself, you need to be an active and informed partner in your healthcare, but if you believe that you are a victim of medical malpractice, contact us.

Dan Irving Cytryn is a Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer handling injury and accident cases for more than 28 years. He has received a 10.0 rating on AVVO, a lawyer rating service, which is the highest rating given for a lawyer. He is also rated the highest ability and ethics rating, "AV", by Martindale Hubbell, a company rating lawyers for more than 100 years.