One of patient’s biggest fears before they are about to undergo an operation may be that their surgeon operates on the correct body part.
In medicine wrong site surgery is referred to as a “never” event: it should never happen. And while extraordinarily rare, it still occasionally does happen. Usually when it does, it makes headlines.
Our goal is obviously NOT to make headlines, but to give you optimal care. We thus have a multi pronged system to ensure that we operate on your correct limb on the day of surgery that I outline below. We use a series of checks on your day of surgery to make sure that we are operating on your correct limb
1. It starts with the consent. Informed consent is a process whereby your surgeon and medical team explains to you the procedure that you are about to have in detail. The explanation should cover risks, benefits, potential alternatives, the expected rehabilitation and potential complications. It is a conversation in which you are given an opportunity to ask questions, voice concerns and better understand your procedure. In this discussion you will be asked upon which limb you will be having surgery. This will then get recorded and placed in your chart for review just before the procedure.
2. On the day of surgery I will mark your operative limb with a permanent marker near the surgery site. I always ask each patient prior to surgery which limb I am operating on. After they respond I will mark it with my initials “MD” and the word “Yes.”
You can help to. While not all patients do this, you can certainly mark your own limb with the word “YES” for the operative limb or “No” for the opposite limb on the morning of surgery
3. Team members double check. Nurses, surgical staff and anesthesia typically double check that all paperwork and surgical site markings match. This is why you may be asked on multiple occasions which limb you are having surgery on. In this case redundancy is a good thing.
4. Time out. In the operating room before your surgery the wntire surgical team stops to review the surgical plan. We make sure that the surgical site is marked and clearly visible and then the entire team agrees that this agrees with the paperwork. Only then do we proceed.