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Neurosurgeon mistakenly operates on wrong side of patient’s brain

Brain surgery is one of the most complex and serious operations a person can go through. Because the stakes are so high, the expectation is that surgeons will use the utmost caution and care. That’s why the family of a woman from the Midwest was so shocked to learn that a devastating and entirely preventable surgical error was made during the woman’s brain operation.

The 53-year-old patient was scheduled to receive a left-sided craniotomy bypass at a St. Louis area hospital on April 4, but instead, allegedly received a right-sided craniotomy and is now unable to speak. A medical malpractice lawsuit was subsequently filed against the hospital and the neurosurgeon.

The woman had been “mobile, cognizant and able to care for herself” before the surgery. After the surgery, however, the woman now requires around-the-clock care for her basic needs, and suffers from emotional distress, anxiety, disfigurement and depression.

An attorney for the woman said the purpose of the craniotomy bypass surgery was to prevent strokes, which she had experienced in the past. He said the mini-strokes had impaired the woman’s speech, but her family could still understand her.

Even though wrong-site surgeries are considered “never events” within the medical field, they still can and do happen, as this case illustrates. The author of the book “Transforming Health Care” said that wrong-site surgeries count as “an egregious system failure” and are often caused by lack of quality control or safety protocols.

In order to help prevent these tragedies, many hospitals have implemented guidelines such as pre-operation checklists to make sure the correct procedure is being performed on the correct body part of the correct patient. At this point, it is unclear whether the hospital involved in this case had implemented any safety protocols like this.

Source: St. Louis Dispatch, “Lawsuit accuses surgeon of operating on wrong side of woman’s brain,” Jim DOyle, April 30, 2013