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Wrong-level spine surgery

Even though wrong-level spine surgeries occur from time to time, it's important to remember one thing: This is something that most surgeons consider preventable.

There are many practices a surgeon can follow to prevent this outcome, ensuring that the patient gets the care they deserve.

In a recent Spine Journal publication, results were published regarding the frequency and causes of wrong-level spine surgery. Of the 2,300 members who participated in the survey, 56 percent said they used fluoroscopy as the localization method, with 56 percent saying they relied on plain radiographs.

There are many scenarios leading to a wrong-level spinal surgery, with the most common being:

-- A lack of intraoperative imaging.

-- When the medical staff relies on a different counting technique on the preoperative and intraoperative films.

The Director of Spinal Neurosurgery at Brigham and Women's Hospital explained this in greater depth:

"What happens, for instance, is it is very common to get an MRI. Let's say a thoracic disc is identified. Most often the level would be designated by counting from the C2 level and working your way down to the level of the disc in question, but that is rarely the way counting is done in the operating room."

Wrong-level spine surgeries are not extremely common, but this impacts many people throughout the world every year. It is a mistake made by the surgeon, and one that needs to be corrected with another procedure.

In the event that you become the victim of a wrong-level spine surgery, it's imperative to understand what happened and to then receive better medical care the next time around.

Source: Healio, "Many factors can lead to wrong-level spinal surgery, but most are preventable," Spine Surgery Today, accessed March 21, 2016

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