Doctor Operates on Wrong Finger During Surgery

A state medical board reprimanded a doctor last week for medical error following a revelation that he operated on the incorrect body part of a patient during an operation at the Rhode Island Hospital.

The Providence Journal reported that the patient had degenerative joint disease in both hands. He had been under the care of orthopedic surgeon Dr. Edward Akelman for five years before the 2009 surgical mistake performed by the doctor. Dr. Akelman was made aware of his mistake while the patient was still unconscious in the middle of the procedure and subsequently performed the correct operation before the patient woke.

An investigation into the error by the state health department discovered that the correct hand had been marked as the surgical site, but there was no marking indicating what fingers needed to be operated upon. Hospital protocols required the specific fingers be marked to avoid just the error that occurred here.

Further investigation showed that two separate finger operations were planned each with its own surgical protocols that needed to be followed. But the medical team treated the two operations as one single procedure. As a result, the team cut corners and skipped necessary steps that are usually required for each unique operation. As so often happens when medical professionals sacrifice care for speed, the mistake was made.

The most fundamental aspect of any surgical procedure is operating on the correct part of the body. Amazingly, wrong-site surgeries occur frequently during all sorts of operations. In fact, the same hospital where this error occurred had made five other wrong-site mistakes in the last three years.

If medical professionals are capable of making surgical mistakes of even that fundamental nature, it is clear that more nuanced errors occur every day at hospitals across the country. Our Chicago medical malpractice lawyers at Levin & Perconti are committed to fighting for the rights of those injured by medical errors that should have been prevented.

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