Belsky Weinberg & Horowitz, LLC A Personal Injury & Workers’ Compensation Law Firm

Technology can minimize occurrence of wrong-site surgeries

Maryland surgeons know that a single surgical error may result in a medical malpractice lawsuit and a large compensation award to an injured plaintiff. Although not common, one error that occurs in some spinal surgery cases is operating on the wrong level of the spine. Surgery on the wrong vertebra can result in a spectrum of outcomes, from minor complications to the need for additional surgeries.

While surgeons generally take great care to avoid mistakes, wrong-site spinal surgeries occur approximately four times a week in the United States. The errors sometimes result from a mismatch between the MRI or CT scan that led to the diagnosis and prompted the surgery and the X-ray showing the metal pins identifying the patient's vertebrae that is taken in the operating room.

Johns Hopkins University has developed a software program that allows the three-dimensional MRI or CT scan and the two-dimensional X-ray to be matched and overlaid. The process gives the surgeon both the diagnostic benefits of the scan and the locator function of the operating room X-ray in one image. In a test of 10,000 cases, the software correctly aligned the images within 26 seconds in 100 percent of the simulated surgeries. The software is now being tested in actual surgical cases.

Until technology such as the Johns Hopkins software is fully implemented, wrong-site surgery will continue to occur. A patient who is the victim of a wrong-site surgery may seek the advice of an attorney with experience in medical malpractice to review the case and potentially advise the patient regarding available legal options. The attorney may be able to help the victim receive financial compensation for pain and suffering, lost income and medical expenses resulting from the surgical error.

Source: HealthCanal, "Spinal Surgery: Right on Target," April 13, 2015

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