A surgeon mistakenly removed the wrong kidney from a 76-year-old patient at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City.

It has been estimated that wrong-site surgery – which includes instances in which a surgeon performs the wrong procedure, a procedure on the wrong patient, or a procedure at the wrong anatomical site – may occur as frequently as 40 times per week in the United States.

Although it is unknown precisely why the wrong kidney was removed in the Mt. Sinai case, both of the patient’s kidneys were diseased. It has been speculated this may have contributed to the confusion. The surgeon was supposed to remove the kidney with more advanced disease, but instead removed the less diseased organ. The second kidney was removed once the surgeon realized his mistake.

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The surgeon who performed the procedure has since been placed on leave pending an investigation, according to hospital spokesperson Dorie Klissas. The patient survived and is living on dialysis.

The hospital has publicly apologized to the patient, and the patient has forgiven the physician.

“The patient states that the surgeon in question helped him overcome bladder cancer in the past, and despite this error, says he has ‘enormous faith’ in the doctor,” Klissas said. “We apologized to the patient, and we will do all we can to ensure that something like this never happens again.”

Several options are available to help hospitals identify, measure and reduce risks in key processes that can contribute to wrong-site surgery, including the Universal Protocol, a pre-procedure verification system, and the Targeted Solutions Tool. These tools are available to all Joint Commission-accredited healthcare organizations.