Ask the Expert: Surgical Worries – Plan-It Lean

Ask the Expert: Surgical Worries

Ask the Expert: Surgical Worries

Q:  My mother is scheduled for surgery soon and of course she’s now hearing surgical horror stories about goof ups while “down under.”  What can I do to convince her that surgery is nothing to worry about?

A:  Your mother’s concern is not totally unwarranted, as many stories are horrifying.  Doctors amputate the wrong leg. A mastectomy is mistakenly performed due to the wrong X-rays placed in a patient’s file, or a patient receives transplant organs that don’t match his blood type.  Medical mistakes happen far more than the public realizes!

However, good news is here.  The joint commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations has created a new methodology or pre-surgical “checklist” to protect patients.

As of July 1, 2004, each of the 4,700 hospitals the commission oversees must use this method to maintain their accreditation and receive Medicare reimbursement.  The system’s goal is to eliminate medical errors that include operating on the wrong side of the body, operating on the wrong patient, and performing the wrong procedure.

The new “checklist” includes identifying the patient, verifying the procedure to be performed and marking the correct site, all with the patient’s help.

Here are six pointers to assist in giving your mother reassurance that all will go well with her surgery.

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Make sure you, your mom and all health professionals involved agree on exactly what will be done during the surgery.

Ask your surgical team if they follow the Joint Commissions universal protocol checklist for pre-surgery verification.

Verify that the information on the hospital identity bracelet is correct.  Specifically check name, medical record number, date of birth and physicians name.

Make sure the paperwork you sign before the operation in the prep room (before anesthesia is administered) includes and specifies the correct information about the surgical site and which side of the body the doctor will operate on.

Ask to have the correct site labeled on the patient’s body with a marker.  If possible, assist in the marking.

Always have a knowledgeable, responsible advocate present on the day of surgery.  Do not leave anyone alone.


Feel free to refer to our website for a list of products to avoid or go to EPA 2000 toxic release inventory @


Deborah Arneson, Licensed Clinical Nutritionist and consultant, is president of Nutrition Consultants of Healing Quest Center, Inc., and producer of Health Quest cable show, which airs Thursdays at 8:30 pm on Channel 19 or 21.  If you would like more information regarding your path to health, please call Healing Quest Center at 312.664.7979. 

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