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How common are wrong-site surgeries for patients in the United States? Is there anything you can do to avoid them when you’re in the hospital? The truth is, surgical errors do happen more commonly than they should, and wrong-site surgeries are still happening in hospitals today.

With a wrong-site surgery the incorrect side is operated on, the correct side but incorrect location is operated on, or the correct side and site but incorrect operation takes place. Sometimes, a wrong-site surgery’s definition also extends to include the wrong procedure being performed or performing surgery on the wrong patient.

Medical errors like these are hard to track due to under-reporting. However, figures from the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons has shown that around 84 percent of claims made resulted in a payout. This means that for the most part, the number of wrong-site surgeries reported are accurate. Several decades ago in 1985 and 1986, the Physician Insurers Association of America reported 331 closed wrong-site surgery claims.

So, what can you do to avoid these issues and to make sure you don’t have the wrong surgery when you check into the hospital? Check your wristband when it’s given to you. Are you the patient listed? Is a doctor marking part of you for surgery? Is it the accurate area? If you’re concerned, make those concerns known. Surgical errors in general can be prevented by having good systems in place at the hospital. Reducing and eliminating chances for confusion by marking a site inaccurately or by having patients with similar names confused can help.