6 Surgical Error Facts About Which You Should Know

4 Mins read

Surgery is never fun. There are more and less invasive surgeries, but even if you have a relatively painless one, you might have to take some time to recover. Even if you feel okay directly after, you might feel some residual effects a few days later.

You should also realize that surgical errors occur relatively frequently. If you’re about to go under the knife, that’s not what you want to hear, yet you should be aware of it. That’s one reason why you want to get your surgery done in a well-known facility by a surgeon you trust.

You can research the nearby hospitals and surgeons if you have a procedure coming up. Look for pending lawsuits and prior complaints to get some idea of whether you should trust that surgeon and medical facility.

We’ll take some time right now to go over surgical error facts of which you should be aware.

They Happen More Often Than You’d Expect

Surgical error is the leading United States death cause. The National Center for Biotechnology Information reports that each year, about 400,000 hospitalized patients experience preventable harm. Surgical errors are 4,000 of those.

The medical profession considers a surgical error to be:

  • Any preventable medical mistake
  • An event that goes beyond a procedure’s normally accepted or recognized risk

All surgery carries a risk element, but when a doctor operates on you, they owe you a care standard. Broken down to the most basic terms, you can consider a surgical error to be any situation where a doctor makes an egregious or preventable mistake.

Wrong Site Surgery Does Happen

If you’re looking at the various surgical errors that can occur, wrong-site surgery is one of them. This can happen when:

  • A doctor misreads a chart
  • A doctor reads the wrong chart

Let’s say you’re about to go into surgery for a torn rotator cuff. It’s the right rotator cuff, and your chart says that. However, your surgeon is in a hurry. They quickly scan the chart, and then they make a left shoulder incision and open you up to look for the damage.

That’s the wrong shoulder, and now you have an incision in the wrong area. When the doctor sees there is no damage, they can stitch you back up, and then they might operate on the correct shoulder. However, maybe you develop a left shoulder infection, or perhaps you don’t like the unsightly and unnecessary scar you now have.

That’s a fairly benign example, but some doctors even go so far as to perform surgery on the wrong organ. If that happens, you’re within your rights to go after them with a malpractice lawsuit.

Anesthesia Errors Are Another Surgical Error Type

Anesthesia is what a doctor uses to render a patient unconscious so the surgeon can operate. Often, there is a particular specialist, an anesthesiologist, who administers the medication to put the patient out for the appropriate time.

Doctors must be cautious when they administer anesthesia. They can give too much, which can kill a patient. They can also provide too little, which could mean that the patient can wake up in the middle of the operation and suffer intense pain.

If an anesthesiologist gives you too much medication or too little, and you survive the procedure, that’s another situation where you can bring legal action against them. If the anesthesia killed you, it’s your family who will take up the legal battle on your behalf.

Doctors Can Leave Equipment Inside a Patient

This is a nearly unthinkable surgical error, yet it does happen. A doctor might open you up and leave some surgical equipment inside you by accident.

They might close you back up and never know it. You may only come to the realization later if you feel pain in that area or you experience an infection. An X-ray or MRI may reveal what’s happening.

This sort of mistake has no acceptable excuse, and you should certainly go after that surgeon in court, if not the entire team who worked on you.

Wrong Patient Surgery Can Occur

Wrong patient surgery is one more surgical error that can occur. When it happens, it might be because a nurse or orderly left a chart in the wrong room.

You’d think that a doctor would catch that kind of error before they operated, but keep in mind that sometimes, a doctor will hardly even meet a patient before operating on them. They also might be thinking more about their golf game that afternoon than the hysterectomy they’re about to perform.

Once again, the patient who has had the wrong surgery should receive compensation, and the legal system can give it to them.

Surgical Errors Can Happen for Many Reasons

There are many surgical error reasons. Drug or alcohol use might play a part. You’d like to think that a surgeon would never operate on someone if they consumed alcohol or drugs beforehand, but doctors are still human, and it does happen.

Fatigue is another common reason. If a doctor has been going for too many hours on end, they might be so exhausted that they make a mistake like operating on the wrong patient or the incorrect organ.

Miscommunication between hospital or clinic personnel can cause a surgical snafu. It might also be simple incompetence. A doctor could claim that they can perform a particular surgery, but they may never have received the proper training.

If you are a surgical error victim, you’d hope that what happened was relatively minor. However, some of these errors can either kill you or leave you permanently disabled. If you’re alive and your entire life has changed because of a doctor or hospital screw up, you should try to get financial recompense.

It won’t fix you, but at least you can punish the doctor or facility who was incompetent or careless. You might cause the individual who operated on you to lose their license, which is as it should be.

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