Surgical Site Marking Error Leads to Medical Malpractice Verdict

Trinity Medical Center in Birmingham Alabama has lost its medical malpractice case due to a surgical site marking error. Kathryn Coiro, a breast cancer survivor who brought the suit, argued that the hospital failed to follow the Joint Commission Universal Protocol on surgical site marking.
According to the Birmingham News, “The suit said Coiro, who had cancer removed from her right breast in 2003 and has a history of diabetes, was diagnosed with a complex cyst of the left breast in July 2007. She went to Trinity’s Outpatient Surgery Center on July 13, 2007, to have a biopsy from her left breast.
The suit said a nurse marked Coiro’s left breast, but Coiro informed the nurse that the mark on her breast was not on the same location as her cyst. The suit said the nurse informed Coiro that the marking was simply to let the doctors know which breast to operate on, prompting Coiro to ask the nurse if she could draw a “smiley face” on the upper portion of her left breast.
After Coiro drew the smiley face, she was given Propofol, a powerful intravenous anesthetic, and was prepped and draped for surgery. The doctor performed a dissection of the left breast where the nurse made the marking, according to the suit.
When Coiro awakened in the recovery room, however, she informed hospital staff that the cyst that was scheduled to be removed was still in her breast.
She was taken back to the operating room for a second surgery.
The suit said Coiro developed a severe infection in the incorrect surgery site and was treated with antibiotics during her first outpatient visit on July 16, 2007.
About five days later, she was admitted to St. Vincent’s emergency room and treated for a significant left breast abscess, cellulitis and skin necrosis on the original surgery site.”