How do you mark a surgical site?
Posted by Clark Venable on 12/1/2005
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons has a policy on marking surgical sites titled Guidelines for Implementation of the Universal Protocol for the Prevention of Wrong Site, Wrong Procedure and Wrong Person Surgery. It's worth reviewing and comparing to your institutions policy. For example:
- Make the mark at or near the incision site. Do NOT mark any non-operative site(s) unless necessary for some other aspect of care.
- The mark should be unambiguous (e.g., use initials or "YES" or a line representing the proposed incision; consider that "X" may be ambiguous).
- The person performing the procedure should do the site marking.
There's much more to the guideline, but your current policies are most likely to be at variance with the above three points. One of the surgery centers I work at, for instance, marks the surgical site with an 'X'. I've explained to them that 'X' is ambiguous (does X mark the spot, or does X mark 'not this one'?) and even explained the details of a malpractice case in which marking with an X came into play. Another hospital was in the habit of marking both sides ('L' and 'R'). Also confusing. Finally, several centers have the nurse preparing the patient for surgery to mark the site. Also not a good idea.
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