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Wrong patient almost gets cardiac catheterization at Tampa General Hospital

TAMPA — Staff members at Tampa General Hospital mistakenly started performing a cardiac catheterization last week on the wrong patient, hospital officials said Wednesday evening.

The man was not harmed, and the hospital is conducting an internal investigation. Staff members failed to follow proper hospital policies to identify the patient before the procedure, said spokesman John Dunn.

A doctor "had inserted a catheter and was taking readings, but they hadn't injected any dye," Dunn said. "It was very early in the procedure."

Staffers made the mistake after asking the patient his identity verbally, without checking his wristband. Dunn could not say what the patient said or how he identified himself.

"Ultimately, it's our responsibility, not the patient's," he said.

Tampa General would not identify the patient or medical staff members involved, and Dunn said he didn't know why the patient was in the hospital.

Those who made the mistake "will be subject to the appropriate disciplinary actions," the hospital said in a statement.

"The physician met with the patient, apologized and explained what had happened," Dunn said.

The catheter was inserted into the man's groin, and he was sedated, but not under anesthesia.

In the procedure, a thin tube, or catheter, is inserted through a blood vessel and guided to the heart. Then dye is injected so doctors can look for blockages.

The procedure wasn't an emergency. The patient who was supposed to be catheterized wasn't harmed by the delay, Dunn said.

The hospital plans to report the incident to regulatory agencies, as it is required to do.

Catheterizations have a small risk of serious complications, including heart attack or stroke.

After a flurry of publicity about surgeries done on the wrong patient or body part, hospitals nationwide have adopted stringent procedures to try to ensure that such "never events" never happen. At Tampa General, staffers were supposed to stop and take what the hospital calls a "pause for the cause" to correctly identify the patient.

In announcing the error, Tampa General joined an increasing number of hospitals who choose to apologize for mistakes rather than deny them. An advocacy group formed in 2005, the Sorry Works! Coalition, pushes hospitals to do so.

In 2004, Sarasota Memorial Hospital also did a cardiac catheterization on the wrong patient. Staffers realized the error after the procedure was finished. The patient wasn't harmed.

Lisa Greene can be reached at

(813) 226-3322 or

Wrong patient almost gets cardiac catheterization at Tampa General Hospital 05/28/08 [Last modified: Saturday, May 31, 2008 7:32am]
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