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How to protect yourself from common medical mistakes (2)

Last week, we wrote a blog post about some of the most common medical mistakes that take place with unfortunate regularity at hospitals in New Haven and around the country. Today, we will continue that discussion with a look at some of the medical errors that take place in the operating room.

Many surgical errors stem from misidentification. For examples, surgeons often operate on the wrong part or side of the body. This generally occurs when a patient's chart is incorrect or is misread, or the doctor or nurse simply forgets where the surgery is supposed to take place. Patients and their family members can prevent mistake from occurring by confirming the location of the procedure with the surgeon and nurse before going under anesthesia.

Although it seems impossible, another common identification mistake happens when surgeons operate on the wrong patient entirely. Clearly, the capacity for injury or death when this occurs is significant. To prevent this, patients should ask medical staff to check their entire name, date of birth and barcode on their wristband before any procedure is performed.

Finally, in one of the most terrifying examples of a surgical error, sometimes surgical patients receive an incorrect or insufficient dose of anesthesia and wake up during surgery. When this happens, the brain awakens while the body remains immobile, with varying levels of pain. Patients can prevent this mistake by asking their surgeon or anesthetist about the anesthesia that will be used, questioning whether they need to be put under or whether a local anesthesia will be sufficient.

Source: CNN, "10 shocking medical mistakes," John Bonifield, Nov. 5, 2012

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