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Woman wakes up from surgery to find doctors operated on the wrong leg

She was left with unnecessary injuries from the procedure, including scarring and a screw in her right knee

Maggie O'Neill ,Freya Coombes
Wednesday 27 September 2023 14:01 BST
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Bianca Petermann Stoeckl said she awoke from surgery to find a doctor had operated on the wrong leg
Bianca Petermann Stoeckl said she awoke from surgery to find a doctor had operated on the wrong leg (Jam Press)

A Brazilian woman has filed a police report against a doctor after she woke up from knee surgery and realised the wrong leg had been operated on.

Bianca Petermann Stoeckl said she went to the Unimed Hospital in Foz do Iguacu, Brazil, for surgery on her left knee. But upon waking up, she said she discovered doctors had operated on her right knee instead, Jam Press reports.

“When I lifted the cover, my right knee was operated on,” Stoeckl said. “I called the team and said, ‘The doctor operated on my wrong leg.’”

Stoeckl, whose age was not disclosed, said she immediately filed a police report against the doctor who performed the operation.

She eventually did have her left knee operated on, but she suffered injuries to the right one due to the unnecessary surgery: Stoeckl now has a scar from the site of the operation, and her right knee now holds a screw thanks to a plate that was inserted during the procedure.

Recovery from knee operations can be long and taxing. Recovery for knee replacements, specifically, can force patients to adjust to new environments for months after the fact.

Bianca Petermann Stoeckl filed a police report after undergoing surgery on her right knee instead of the left
Bianca Petermann Stoeckl filed a police report after undergoing surgery on her right knee instead of the left (Jam Press)

People recovering from knee surgery often have to use walking sticks or crutches; get up and move around for five minutes every hour so they don’t develop blood clots; complete exercises prescribed by a physical therapist; and avoid any movements that might bend or twist the knee, such as reaching movements, per the National Health Service (NHS).

Patients recovering from these operations may have to miss work for up to 12 weeks, and they are advised not to drive for six weeks after the procedure.

They’re also supposed to avoid certain motions and postures, including sitting with their legs crossed, sleeping with the knee elevated, kneeling, standing for long periods, and doing any household chores that involve lifting or moving heavy objects, such as a vacuum.

Recovering from two knee replacements at once—which is sometimes called a bilateral knee replacement—can make recovery all the more challenging, per the Hospital for Special Surgery. Patients who undergo these operations sometimes find the recovery process more challenging since more strain is put on the body. Rehab can be more difficult as well since patients aren’t able to stand on either leg for support.

To prepare for these procedures, patients are encouraged to create a living space that is all on one floor so they don’t have to navigate staircases, per the Mayo Clinic.

They should also install handrails or safety bars wherever they’ll be showering to prevent injuries due to falls; remove loose cords and rugs from their home; and make sure they have a stable chair, preferably one that contains a cushion, and footrest to use when they need to give their leg a break.

The police as well as Brazil’s Regional Council of Medicine are reportedly investigating Stoeckl’s case.

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