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Surgery is scary. No matter how experienced the doctor, there is a chance that even a routine operation can go wrong. After all, we’ve all heard stories of patients who’ve had surgery on the wrong body part or have been given the wrong surgery.

As a patient, you are helpless during surgery. But this doesn’t mean that you can’t take steps to protect yourself. Here are five things Illinois patients can do to protect themselves from wrong-site surgery and other surgical errors in Bloomington hospitals.

  1. Discuss the upcoming surgery with your physician. Make sure you know the possible risks. Review your medical records for any mistakes and ask the doctor what will be done to prevent surgical errors. Get all the details like what you can expect during surgical preparation, what body part will be operated on, and who will perform the surgery. If you know exactly what to expect, you’ll be better able to recognize something going wrong.
  2. Ask if it is possible to remain awake during surgery. This isn’t always an option, but choosing epidural or spinal anesthesia will allow you to be aware of what is happening.
  3. Bring a Sharpie to the hospital. Mark the body part to be operated on in permanent marker. For example, you can write “THIS LEG” on the leg that’s being operated on. You may also want to put your name on the body part in order to prevent wrong-patient surgery.
  4. Ask your doctor to initial the surgical site. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons advises its members to sign their initials directly on the surgical site before beginning any procedure. Make sure it is your surgeon, not a nurse or assistant, who does the signing.
  5. Verify your name and birthdate. As you are wheeled in to the operating room, check that the nurse has the correct patient name and birthdate. You can double– and even triple-check by verifying your name with the anesthesiologist and surgeon.

Above all, trust your instincts. If anything feels wrong, ask that the information be checked again.

Your surgical team should also take steps to prevent Illinois operating room errors:

  • The surgeon should sign the incision site while you are still awake and aware.
  • The surgical team should take a time out before surgery to verify your name, birthdate, and the procedure that will they are performing.

There is no excuse for wrong-site surgeries. Although these errors should never happen, about 100 people a year receive the wrong surgery. If this happens to you, your rights are protected under Illinois medical malpractice law. If you have questions about your rights, please contact the experienced Bloomington medical malpractice attorneys at Hupy and Abraham. Call 866-532-4800 to schedule a free consultation.


Jason F. Abraham
Managing Partner, Hupy and Abraham
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