Yes, This Knee!

Last week I had arthroscopic surgery on my right knee.  Just before the procedure, a nurse walked over with a felt-tipped pen and wrote “YES” on my right leg.  When the doctor came over, he confirmed it was my right knee that was being operated on, and then proceeded to write his initials above the “YES.”

Apparently this is how they make sure they operate on the correct body part.

That struck me as both reassuring and unnerving.  On the one hand, it was reassuring to know I wouldn’t wake up to discover a missing testicle.  But on the other hand, it was unnerving to realize I had placed my fate in the hands of a medical system that has to resort to felt-tip markers in order to prevent surgical mistakes.

In the end, of course, they operated on the right knee, and I’m happy to report that I’m healing nicely.

PS: Sadly, even writing on the correct body part sometimes fails.

10 thoughts on “Yes, This Knee!

  1. Actually, when you think about it, writing on the body part is a great bit of information architecture. It is a perfect example of right medium, right context. It is pretty resiliate – no computer failure will wipe it (although a bath might). And it’s perfectly understandable by the user – which is a good thing, really :)

  2. When I had arthroscopic surgery on my left knee, they handed me the pen to write on which knee, which was then confirmed by the doctor and nurse. It made me feel better.

  3. Hi Nick… I was surprised by this myself last year when I ruptured my Achilles tendon. They made ME write it on my leg, though, and no less than three people confirmed that it was the right leg before I went under the anesthesia.
    After the second person asked, I grabbed the pen again and wrote “NO” on my left leg.
    It’s one of those things that makes perfect sense, but you gotta feel for the people who had mishaps BEFORE they started this practice.

  4. hmm… once they’re in shouldn’t they be able to ‘see’ if they’re operating on perfectly good tissue…

  5. I’m reminded of the poor chap who wanted to celebrate his sport team winning the competition with a tatoo. He wrote our what he wanted and handed it to the tatoo artist (tatooist?) who then applied the tatoo verbatim.
    Wouldn’t have been such a problem, except the instructions said ‘right arm’ and ‘left arm’ to explain what went were. The tatoos also have this on them…

  6. I had to get a liver biopsy done once, and after pushing on my abdomen in a handful of ways and tapping, the liver specialist took out a ball point ben and made a little “x” where he wanted to go in for the biopsy.
    Then this young medical student comes flying in, all out of breath, and apologizes profusely to the liver specialist for being late and with shaking hands takes the big biopsy needle and performed the biopsy…
    Great… nice to know that I got a referral to one of the countries leading liver specialists only to have some young medical student that’s out of breath, flustered for being late, and shaking being the one who is going to extract a little core sample of one of my vital organs.

  7. I had hernia surgery recently one on each side and found it odd the nurse had to write yes on both sides of the stomach. Which led me to believe the incisions would be quite a bit higher than they ended up. But I’ll admit the first thing I did when I woke up was check to make sure everything was still there. All 12 fingers and 8 toes. Crap.

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