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Prevention efforts hampered by misplaced nerve blocks

Massachusetts readers may take an interest in a report regarding the prevalence of wrong-site peripheral nerve blocks. While they're not as widely publicized or disastrous as wrong-site surgeries, they occur 10 times more frequently. Additionally, the issue of anesthesia error can be almost entirely avoided with improved vigilance, planning and engagement by the care team members.

An associate professor of anesthesiology and vice chair for clinical operations at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and his colleagues used quality improvement and billing information to determine the number of wrong-site blocks between July 2002 and June 2012. Clinicians in the UPMC system performed 169,508 blocks on 85,915 patients during this time. Out of these, nine wrong-site blocks occurred, which was an incidence of 1.05 per 10,000 patients.

A review of the cases revealed that, in each instance, the care team did not follow the prescribed policy. The key, according to researchers, is training and culture. The team has to be committed. It helps to have the team go through the steps out loud, together. In addition to minimizing errors, patients find it very reassuring.

A Massachusetts attorney with a medical malpractice background might be able to assist patients who have had a wrong-site surgery or peripheral nerve block. A settlement may pay for corrective procedures or surgery, lost wages, and pain and suffering. An attorney may have the necessary experience and resources to negotiate successfully with the hospital to secure a substantial settlement for a patient. If the negotiations don't resolve satisfactorily, the attorney might suggest bringing the case to civil court.

Source: Anesthesiology News, "Misplaced Nerve Blocks Frustrate Efforts at Prevention", Michael Vlessides, August 09, 2013

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