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Wrong Site Surgery

Help prevent errors in your care

For surgical patients

Health care workers across the country are working hard to make health care safety a priority. Everyone has a role in making health care safe-physicians, health care executives, nurses, technologists, and you, the patient.You can play a vital role in making your surgical procedure safe by becoming an active, involved and informed member of your health care team. Here's what you can do to help make your surgery safe.

Before you arrive

  • Make sure that your surgeon is using the Universal Protocol. All Joint Commission-accredited organizations are required to follow the Universal Protocol to Prevent Wrong Site,Wrong Procedure and Wrong Person SurgeryTM. Joint Commission accredited organizations are listed on Quality Check at http://www.qualitycheck.org/.
  • Check with your doctor to see whether there are any prescription or non-prescription medications that you should avoid taking or stop taking temporarily before your surgery.
  • Check with your doctor about what you can or can't eat or drink before your surgery.
  • Write down your questions or concerns instead of trying to remember them.
  • Make arrangements for transportation to and from the hospital or medical facility with a responsible family member or friend.
  • Ask a family member or friend to be with you in the hospital or medical facility.This person can serve as your advocate and help to ensure your comfort and safety.
  • Before leaving your home, shower and wash your hair, and remove any nail polish (fingers and toes).Also, do not wear makeup. The skin and nails provide important signs of blood circulation.
  • It is a good idea to leave any valuables, such as jewelry, at home.

For your safety, the staff may ask you the same question many times. They will ask:

  • Who you are
  • What kind of surgery you are having
  • The part of your body to be operated on

They will also double-check the records from your doctor's office.

At the hospital or medical facility

  • You will be asked to sign an informed consent form, which verifies that you and your doctor have discussed the surgery that is to be performed on your body, the expectation that you have of each other, and the risks associated with the surgery.
  • Make sure that everything on the form is correct.

Before your surgery

  • Your doctor will mark the spot on your body to be operated on. Make sure they mark only the correct part and nowhere else. This helps avoid mistakes.
  • Marking usually happens when you are awake. Sometimes you cannot be awake for the marking. If this happens, a family member or friend or another health care worker can watch the marking. They can make sure that your correct body part is marked.
  • If you are having spine surgery, the mark will be made on the area of your spine on which your procedure is to be performed. However, this is just a "marker" to indicate that you are having spine surgery and to identify the general level of the surgery (neck, upper back, lower back).The exact location will be confirmed by taking and reviewing special X-rays in the operating room after you are asleep.
  • Ask your doctor if he or she plans to take a "time out" with the surgical team just before beginning your surgery. During the time out, the members of the health care team assure themselves that they are performing the correct procedure at the correct site and on the correct person.

In the recovery room

  • After your surgery, your doctor or nurse will ask about any pain you may have. Joint Commission accredited organizations are required to evaluate your pain and provide appropriate relief through medication and other methods.
  • Whenever you are asked to take a medication, especially a new one, ask what it is for and its side effects. This will ensure that you are receiving the correct medication. If you have questions or concerns about any medication, you should raise these with your doctor or nurse.
  • If you are given IV (intravenous) fluids, ask your nurse how long it should take for the liquid to "run out."And tell your nurse if it does not seem to be dripping properly (too fast or too slow).
  • Remember to follow-up with your doctor about any therapy or medicines that you may need in your recovery and when you can resume certain activities, like work, exercise or travel.

(This information was provided by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.)