"Sign Your Site" Campaign

"Sign Your Site" Campaign

Does the right hand know what the left hand's botching?

A couple of weeks ago, I read about a University of Cincinnati College of Medicine survey of US hand surgeons that revealed an astonishing fact: More than 20% of them have operated on the wrong site at least once in their careers -- most often the wrong hand, sometimes the wrong wrist.

To err is human, I know -- but are these guys dyslexic or something?

Medical errors are a big problem -- I write about them all the time -- but ONE OUT OF FIVE? That's a lot of docs making mistakes. The study also notes that around 10% of all medical malpractice claims are filed against orthopedic surgeons. No wonder their insurance is so high nowadays. Plaintiffs almost always win lawsuits that involve wrong-site surgery, as well they should

But never fear -- bureaucrats to the rescue! To combat these and other preventable errors, the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons in 1998 launched the "Sign Your Site" campaign -- a movement that encourages surgeons to clearly mark their initials on the correct site as part of their pre-operative routine

Sort of like an "X marks the spot" on a treasure map.

To this revelation, they've added the suggestion that surgeons not only verify the proper site -- but also make sure that they're operating on the right patient before making any incisions. What a revelation: Make sure you're cutting up the right site on the right person. Thank God the AAOS is on the case.

But what I wonder is this: Do these kinds of blunders ever happen when surgeons operate on each other? Are they more careful when it's their buddy under the knife, rather than Joe Schmoe? Now that's a study I'd really be interested in seeing

Taking a bite out of heart disease,
William Campbell Douglass II, MD