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Learning to Improve Safety: False-Positive Pathology Report Results in Wrongful Surgery

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Background: A patient experienced a wrongful surgical resection, specifically, a radical retropubic prostatectomy because of a false-positive pathology report.

Findings from the Root Cause Analysis (RCA): The RCA team identified three antecedent events that contributed to this medical error: (1) a second (concurring) pathologist did not provide a written opinion, (2) a single pathologist who reviewed and signed the final report, and (3) a pathologist who did not review the case and reconfirm the diagnosis immediately prior to the surgical resection.

Recommendations: The RCA team recommended that the concurring pathologist write his or her diagnostic findings on the referral form, two pathologists review and sign the final typed report, and a pathologist rereview the slides on the business day prior to a surgical resection. Because the prostate specific antigen (PSA) value can be helpful in select cases of prostate cancer, the team recommended the PSA value be referenced when reviewing prostate specimens obtained through fine-needle biopsy.

Tracking Compliance: Because a wrongful surgical resection is a rare event, emphasis was placed on measuring compliance with distinct elements that were part of the revised procedure. During a 12-month span, practitioners demonstrated sustained compliance to the enhanced process for analyzing and reporting results.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2005

More about this publication?
  • Published monthly, The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety is a peer-reviewed publication dedicated to providing health professionals with the information they need to promote the quality and safety of health care. The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety invites original manuscripts on the development, adaptation, and/or implementation of innovative thinking, strategies, and practices in improving quality and safety in health care. Case studies, program or project reports, reports of new methodologies or new applications of methodologies, research studies on the effectiveness of improvement interventions, and commentaries on issues and practices are all considered.

    Also known as Joint Commission Journal on Quality Improvement and Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Safety
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