Objective: We sought to identify factors contributing to wrong-site surgery (wrong patient, procedure, side, or part).
Methods: We examined all reports from all hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers--in a state that requires reporting of wrong-site surgery--from the initiation of the reporting requirement in June 2004 through December 2006.
Results: Over 30 months, there were 427 reports of near misses (253) or surgical interventions started (174) involving the wrong patient (34), wrong procedure (39), wrong side (298), and/or wrong part (60); 83 patients had incorrect procedures done to completion. Procedures on the lower extremities were the most common (30%). Common contributions to errors resulting in the initiation of wrong-site surgery involved patient positioning (20) and anesthesia interventions (29) before any planned time-out process, not verifying consents (22) or site markings (16), and not doing a proper time-out process (17). Actions involving operating surgeons contributed to 92. Common sources of successful recovery to prevent wrong-site surgery were patients (57), circulating nurses (30), and verifying consents (43). Interestingly, 31 formal time-out processes were unsuccessful in preventing "wrong" surgery.
Conclusions: Wrong-site surgery continues to occur regularly, especially wrong-side surgery, even with formal site verification. Many errors occur before the time-out; some persist despite the verification protocol. Patients and nurses are the surgeons' best allies. Verification, starting with verification of the consent, needs to occur at multiple points before the incision.