Wrong Level Spine Surgery

Wrong Level Spine Surgery Studied by the Harvard Medical School

Wrong level spine surgery it turns out is a continuing problem in neurosurgery notwithstanding the introduction of surgical protocols and pre-operative imaging meant to reduce its incidence. This is the conclusion of a study conducted by authors in the Department of Neurosurgery at Brigham and Young  Hospital and the Harvard Medical School. The study was published in the journal World Neurosurgery online on April 2 2012. It may be referenced by clicking here.

In a moment of collective professional self confession the authors admit that localization or siting of lumbar spinal surgery has not been well studied. They undertook the study to to better understand the scope of wrong level spine surgery and current practices in place to help avoid these errors.

The study was conducted by surveying members of the Joint Section on Disorders of the Spine and Peripheral Nerves (Spine Section). Participation was voluntary and conducted over the web. The survey was restricted to considering single-level lumbar spine decompression surgery only. A little over half of the invited physicians completed the survey. In total there were 569 positive responses.

Almost Half of All Surgeons Perform Wrong Level Spine Surgery

A majority of surgeons routinely obtain preoperative imaging as part of their planning for incision (74%). A very similar number (73%) also routinely obtained post incision imaging prior to bone removal. Notwithstanding these precautions almost 50% of the participating surgeons reported having performed wrong level spine surgery of the lumbar spine at least once. Even more remarkably more than 10% of the surgeons had performed lumbar spine surgery on the wrong side at least once. The results of the survey also showed that less than half the respondents ( in fact only 40%) had any confidence that the Joint Commission’s site marking/”time out” protocol has led to a reduction in these errors. We have commented in an earlier post  on the Joint Commission’s site surgery protocol and findings indicating that incidence of wrong site surgery had even increased after its first introduction.

The study also revealed that legal action over these errors was commenced against less than half of the surgeons who had committed these errors as slightly less than 20 % of the participating surgeons had been the subject of at least one malpractice case relating to these errors. No information is provided as to why there was such a low take up of medical malpractice lawsuits over these errors. It is well known however that it is notoriously difficult to obtain expert medical opinion evidence in a neurosurgery case given the relatively small population size of the medical speciality.

The study authors concluded that while there was substantial similarity in approaches used to localize operative levels in the lumbar spine that existing safety protocols may not be mitigating wrong level spine surgery to the extent previously thought.

Malpractice Lawyers in Toronto Canada for Wrong Level Spine Surgery Cases

More information concerning negligence in surgery can be found on our surgical error page. If you need a consultation or advice concerning injury caused by wrong level spine surgery then please call us at 416.862.0997 or if you reside outside of Toronto or the GTA at 1.866.900.0997. You may also provide your information in a confidential and secure manner by completing our free case evaluation form by clicking the button in the side panel of this page.

This entry was posted in medical malpractice, standard of care. Bookmark the permalink. Comments are closed, but you can leave a trackback: Trackback URL.