Preventing Wrongful Leg and Foot Amputation

Post 6 of 9

We go to doctors to find medical advice and we trust them with our lives. As such, we are filled with horror when we see that over the last few years, the number of wrongful leg and foot amputation cases because of medical negligence has increased. More patients wake up from surgery to find themselves not cured, but victims of terrible accidents. Only last year there were five cases of wrong leg or foot amputation. Although the compensation payout has risen by more than 100% in 2006, these accidents seem unpreventable. Moreover, they make people wonder if they can indeed find medical advice that they can trust in hospitals.

Preventing Wrongful Leg and Foot Amputation Preventing Wrongful Leg and Foot Amputation Picture

A physician is sometimes forced to make a difficult decision and advice a patient to amputate a limb or just a part of it in order to prevent the spreading or worsening of a disease. The stories of surges amputating the wrong body part only makes the procedure more difficult for the patient. A wrong leg or foot amputation is an irreversible mistake that can cause severe disability and affect the life of the individual. After an individual loses the wrong limb, he or she must go through a second surgery to lose the correct limb. Such procedures are traumatizing and make the medical health professional or the medical facility liable for a compensation claim.

A wrong leg or foot amputation occurs more often in individuals whose limbs look the same. If one limb is visibly damaged and the other is not, the risk for wrongful surgery diminishes. Many studies assessed the aspects of site marking and found challenges in ensuring that the right site is market for each patient. Surgeons have practices ranging from marking every patient to no marking at all. Researchers approached site marking from a different point of view and considered it the complete responsibility of patients. Result showed that 60% of the patients asked to mark the site of surgery managed to perform this task correctly.

Preventing Wrongful Leg and Foot Amputation Preventing Wrongful Leg and Foot Amputation Picture

Other studies questioned if marking in fact will lead to more wrongful leg and foot amputation surgeries. Marking the site can cause other errors because of the permanence of the ink, although this does not affect sterility. The medical staff are not marking the right site due tot he fact that the ink upsets breast cancer patients and is hard to erase from the skin of premature infants. Other studies found that a time out component can prevent most cases of wrongful leg and foot amputation. Moreover, a standardized 2-minute briefing before surgery improves communication between nurses, surgeons and anesthesiologists.

The Joint Commission’s National Patient Safety Goals aims to eliminate wrong patient, wrong procedure and wrong site surgery. This requires implementing robust systems and a more effective approach to verify the correct site and identify the causes of errors in the system. Surgery centers and hospital leaders should change their procedures and policies regarding wrong leg and foot amputation to make sure such event do not occur. Implementing the Universal Protocol improves communication in the team, standardizes preoperative preparations and prevents wrong site surgery.