The incident occurred at Princess Margaret Hospital. A neurosurgeon was operating to remove blood clots from the left side of the patient’s brain, as the patient had been accumulating blood in his head tissue. The procedure, called a craniotomy or a burr hole, is a routine and fairly simple neurosurgery – unless your surgeon forgets where to drill.

The neurosurgeon realized his mistake when he opened the right side of the patient’s head to remove blood clots and didn’t find any. He quickly closed the hole, switched sides, and then performed the operation successfully.

The patient is reported to be conscious and stable condition since his close call. The hospital apologized to the patient and his family, and formed an investigation panel to find the cause of the blunder.

The authorities also reminded clinical staff of the importance of confirming patients’ identities and surgery required before actually cutting into them.

This is the second incident of this kind to occur at Princess Margaret Hospital in 2017 – the mirror of this incident occurred in March, when a neurosurgeon opened the left side of a 54-year-old woman’s brain when it was her right side that required surgery. 

The neurosurgeon removed a chunk of the woman’s skull to drain fluid out before the mistake was noticed by an anesthesiologist. An investigation of the case found that the surgeon had been performing the surgery based solely on his recollection from an ultrasound he had looked out beforehand.

Hong Kong is in the midst of instituting new safety policies at public hospitals to improve vetting before patients are operated on.

Princess Margaret is one of Hong Kong’s larger hospital as well as one of its main teaching hospitals. It was the subject of a scandal in May 2017 when a 21-year-old patient died of a viral heart infection she contracted within the hospital, with the victim’s family laying the blame for her death at the feet of her allegedly incompetent physicians.