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What does it mean to have a “time out” before a procedure?

On Behalf of | May 19, 2023 | Surgery Negligence

If you’re scheduled for surgery, it’s essential to understand all steps of the process, including a critical safety protocol known as a “time out.” Instituted as a standard practice in hospitals around the world, a time out is designed to prevent surgical errors, contributing to patient safety and peace of mind.

A time out is a final, deliberate pause taken by the entire surgical team immediately before the start of a procedure. It serves as an ultimate verification of critical details, allowing the team to confirm important information and ensure that everyone is in agreement before moving forward.

What happens during a time out?

If you are undergoing a surgery, the team will typically confirm the following during the timeout:

  • Your identity: They will check your name, birth date and possibly your patient identification number.
  • The surgical site: If the surgery involves a specific side of your body, they will verify the correct side and location. This might involve checking markings on your body.
  • The procedure to be performed: The team will discuss what surgery is planned and ensure everyone agrees about what will be done.
  • Any known allergies: This can include allergies to medications, anesthesia or materials, like latex, that could be used during the procedure.

Everyone in the operating room is involved in the time out, including the surgeon, anesthesiologist, nurses and any other assisting personnel. During this pause, all activity in the operating room stops. This ensures complete focus on this verification process.

What can a time out prevent?

The time out can prevent serious surgical mistakes, such as wrong-site, wrong-procedure or wrong-patient surgery. While these errors are rare, the time out procedure is an extra safeguard put in place to ensure they don’t happen.

Remember, as the patient, you also play a vital role in your surgical safety. Don’t hesitate to ask questions before the procedure about the planned surgery, and feel free to confirm that a time out will be performed before your procedure.

Some patients still suffer injuries despite a time out being performed. In the event that you have suffered complications or other adverse challenges related to your surgery, it may be worthwhile to seek legal guidance. You may be entitled to significant compensation.