Woman loses jaw in surgery mix-up

New Zealand woman wrongly told she had mouth cancer

Published On: Jun 12 2012 10:57:52 AM EDT   Updated On: Jun 13 2012 10:37:07 AM EDT

 A New Zealand hospital is under fire for removing part of a woman's jaw after she was wrongly diagnosed with mouth cancer.

Doctors at the University of Otago Dental Hospital said a lab pathologist dropped two tissue samples on the floor and somehow mixed them up, leading to the misdiagnosis, the Otago Daily Times reported.

The 63-year-old woman, who has not been identified, came to the hospital with swelling and a sinus infection following a tooth implant.

After being told she had mouth cancer, doctors removed the right side of her upper jaw. They used bone and blood vessels from her lower leg in an attempt to reconstruct her jaw, but the site became infected and the woman now has trouble walking, according to the New Zealand Daily Herald.

"I can't for the life of me understand how you can get tissue samples mixed up," Dr. Iain Wilson, the oral surgeon who sent the woman's biopsy to the lab, told the Daily Herald. "I am astonished and horrified by these lab mix-ups."

The hospital has apologized to the woman, who has contacted an attorney.

New Zealand's Health and Disability Commissioner is investigating, according to 3 News.