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The Perils of Surgical Mishaps

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The chances of a doctor operating or performing surgery on the wrong part
of the brain is actually much larger than most people would believe. This
sort of surgical mishap happens to hundreds every year and, even with
multiple steps taken to prevent it, can still happen to anyone.


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The concept is often one that is ripped right out of a horror novel or
late-night news special. The idea that doctors can perform surgery on the
wrong side of the body is a frightening one. Most people would dismiss
the idea of such a surgery mishap as being a remote occurrence, believing
things like medical training and advanced technology would help prevent
such things. However, there is some alarming information that has come to
light because of a news report from The Providence Journal, a newspaper
in the state of Rhode Island. An article that detailed how three
different patients had doctors perform surgery on the wrong side of their
brains uncovered the disturbing statistic showing just how common such
snafus actually are in the medical world.

When taking the number of surgeries that occur on a yearly basis, the
statistics show that a doctor is more likely to leave a small item in the
body after surgery than operate on the wrong side or part of the body.
The percentages are rather small when one first looks at them, making it
seem like a minor occurrence that isn't really a viable risk. However,
once someone considers just how many that those percentages actually
represent, one comes to realize that that small number could mean
hundreds or thousands of people every year are experiencing problems of
that sort. The worst part is that there is a distinct possibility that
the number is inaccurate because most of the cases of this sort of thing
happening during surgery are not even reported by the patients or

A number of these incidents are of the hit-or-miss variety, where the
doctor realizes that they're not going after the target area before any
real damage has been done. In most cases, this would not count as medical
malpractice since the surgery was halted and directed to the appropriate
area of the body before any real harm was caused. However, when one
considers how sensitive the brain and other areas of the body might be
and the possibility of the doctor not realizing his mistake in time, the
sense of risk becomes even greater than normal. This has been of
particular concern with procedures that involve laser surgery equipment.
The nature of the machinery involved can potentially do more damage
within a short amount of time than less precise surgical tools within
that same time frame.

There have been procedures and steps suggested to minimize the chances of
these things happening, such as openly marking the areas where the
surgery is to take place. Other steps being considered include making
sure all records are accurate and updated, as well as taking time prior
to making the procedure to make sure all of the information can be
corroborated with the patient's medical history and the pertinent data
about the procedure itself. These are just some of the steps that medical
boards and hospitals are starting to implement to prevent this problem,
but they can only help in prevention cannot fully eliminate the problem.
This is because situations of this sort are caused by that which is the
bane of engineers and investigators alike: human error.