October 24, 2023

Body Art in The O.R.

Missing a boob but not the one with cancer in it? Yep, it happens. Docs take out the wrong body part by accident. I once met a young cancer patient whose docs removed the wrong lung. Now that is a big damn deal.

I learned on the blog post Planning Surgery? Bring A Sharpie, in the Tuesday New York Times, that docs often use disposable pens to write on the body before surgery to ensure removal of the correct body part. Why disposable? To protect against the transmission of infection. Until now….. A recent study revealed that the alcohol content in Sharpie pens prevents bacteria from forming and would save hospitals thousands of dollars in costs because they are reusable.

Fascinating… yes. But not nearly as intriguing as the comments by blog readers (both patients and doctors) about body notes to docs:

When I get my annual exam every year, I write “NO LATEX” with marker on both of my inner thighs. I started doing it after I said to a nurse practitioner, at the start of an exam, “I am allergic to latex.” “Okay,” she said, reaching for the latex gloves. - MD

As an orthopedic surgeon doing about 300 arthroscopic knee surgeries a year, I have patients put black duck tape on the knee NOT to be operated on. It takes a little doing to rip it off to operate on the wrong knee, so the results have been good. Dr. Don Rosen

A Sharpie can also possibly be used in a “DNR” situation. Rather than rely totally on their procedures, you can write DNR on your chest or arm. — Look Sharp

A while ago, I was in the hospital with serious complications from mono. My spleen was enlarged and once word of that got out, interns kept coming by to feel what an enlarged spleen felt like - since I guess it’s a rarity. My doctor was afraid my spleen would rupture, so he wrote “Do Not Touch” on top of my spleen - with a sharpie.

As a young adult cancer patient, I’ve never had to worry about the wrong part being removed – I’ve had parts removed of which there are only one: my thyroid and boat loads of lymph nodes. How about you? Have any of you ever had the wrong thing removed in surgery? Have you ever worried about it? Do you have any stories of good O.R. body art?

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  1. aftercancernowwhat Says:
    October 29th, 2008 at 6:27 PM

    Nah, I had both breasts removed, thus avoiding any chance of confusion.

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