When a Wisconsin resident checks into a hospital for major surgery, a wide range of worries come into play. We often tell ourselves that medical advancements have led the American healthcare system to great heights, and that our concerns are simply paranoia creeping in as we prepare for a surgical procedure. There are cases, however, in which an act of medical malpractice demonstrates that our worst fears may be more valid than we would like to believe.
An example lies in the case of a 67-year-old woman who was experiencing trigeminal neuralgia. The condition causes excruciating pain in the head, leaving patients virtually incapacitated until the pain level subsides. She checked into a hospital for a surgical procedure that was intended to place a small sponge at the site of the nerve that causes the pain. The procedure involves cutting out a small piece of the patient’s skull, which is replaced after the buffer is inserted.
However, in this case, the surgeon who performed the procedure operated on the wrong side of the woman’s head. When the mistake was discovered, the patient was awakened and asked to sign a release allowing the surgical team to perform the operation a second time, in the correct area of her skull. Still groggy from anesthesia, the patient gave her consent and the procedure was completed.
Following the surgery, the patient now has vestibular nerve damage on both sides of her skull. This condition is irreparable, and has left her with dizziness and vertigo. She is unable to function at the level experienced prior to the surgery, and can no longer live on her own.
Making matters worse, she later discovered that the surgeon had previously operated on the wrong site. She has filed a medical malpractice suit in the matter. Patients in Wisconsin and elsewhere should take her story as a precautionary tale, and should make every effort to fully research the professional history of a surgeon who will be performing any type of operation.
Source: HeraldTribune.com, “Woman sues neurosurgeon over wrong-site operation,” Donna Koehn, March 16, 2013