Surgery always involves risk. That’s why the best surgeons are among the best-paid physicians. They are acutely aware of the responsibility they have to make sure all goes well. Unfortunately, mistakes can still happen, turning a lifesaving operation into a potential tragedy.
Did you know that medical mistakes are the third most common cause of death in the United States? That’s truly shocking. And what’s even more shocking is realizing the types of surgical errors that contribute to those statistics. The five most common surgical errors sound almost like a cliche.
You would think that since they occur so frequently, there would be safeguards in place to prevent them from happening, and there are. You would also think that experienced surgeons wouldn’t make those errors, yet still they happen. Let’s take a closer look.
The Five Most Common Surgical Errors
There is a range of reasons that can lead to mistakes, and they vary to some extent with the type of mistake that is made. First, let’s look at the most common errors that can happen during surgery.
Leaving Foreign Objects Behind
One of the most common errors is that some foreign object is left behind inside the body as it is stitched up again. These objects could be clamps, gauze, or even a scalpel, and they can lead to severe injury and infection. They can cause a great deal of pain and often require additional surgery for their removal.
This could easily be prevented just by paying close attention, and by creating a checklist during the surgery, and afterward making sure that every item that was introduced into the site has been removed before the incision is closed up.
Performing the Wrong Procedure
Another horrible error that happens more often than it should, and that, of course, should never happen at all, is that the wrong surgery is performed. This could mean that there is a patient mix-up and the wrong patient is operated on. In that situation, a healthy organ might be removed in one patient, while the diseased organ remains in place in the other one.
It could also mean that the wrong surgery may be performed in one patient who actually requires a different kind of surgery. The consequences of these sorts of mix-ups can be severe.
How could that happen? Generally, it happens due to disorganization or some kind of mix-up of paperwork. Hospitals are busy, and surgeons are notoriously overworked, so unless everything is double- and triple-checked, a nightmare scenario can occur if someone slips up.
Wrong Side Surgery
Related to the surgical errors above and caused by similar problems in the operating room is the case where the surgeon operates on the wrong side of the patient. Instead of amputating the diseased left leg, for example, he amputates the good right leg. This is a horrifying error. Similarly, the good left kidney could be removed instead of the diseased right kidney.
Not only will the originally planned surgery have to be repeated, but the patient has lost a crucial organ or limb that cannot easily be replaced and can lead to permanent disability. This is the kind of thing nightmares are made of.
Yet another common mistake occurs when anesthesia is not properly administered. If too much is given, possibly without sufficient oxygen, it can cause brain damage or even death. If not enough is administered, the patient might wake up mid-surgery while being in excruciating pain. There can even be mistakes where the wrong drug is administered.
Nerve Damage & More
As the surgeon is working on the planned surgery, the scalpel could slip and cut into a nerve or another crucial structure. This kind of thing can cause great pain as well as potential dysfunction or possible paralysis. Similar incidents could result in bowel perforation and more, leading to dangerous infections.
Even minor surgery can result in severe side effects. During surgery to relieve sinus pressure, it can happen that the muscles that control eye movements are accidentally cut. This can lead to chronic double vision, and the patient will lose the ability to drive or work, or even read. If any of these kinds of errors should ever happen to you, speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer.
Why Do These Errors Occur?
There are many reasons why people commit errors, but in the context of surgery, they have much more serious consequences than in many other areas of life. They really should never happen, but they do. Talk to a lawyer about surgical errors and medical malpractice. Here are some of the most common causes of surgical errors:
Not enough planning before the operation: The surgeon and his team of nurses and assistants must be thoroughly prepared for the surgery, including possible complications. They also should have all the required equipment ready.
Poor communication: Communication is crucial in a team effort like surgery, and there really is no room for error.
Fatigue: Surgeons are notoriously overworked and tired, and tired people make more mistakes.
Drugs and alcohol: The stress of their professions drives some surgeons to drugs and alcohol, and they may even be under the influence when they are in the operating room.
What You Should Do If You Are Injured During Surgery?
If you have been injured during surgery due to a mistake made because of incompetence, carelessness, or under the influence, you should speak to an experienced medical malpractice attorney right away. They will be able to guide you through the process of getting compensation for your injuries. Call or email us for a free consultation. We will be happy to talk with you.