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When An Error Made During Surgery Causes Further Harm

On Behalf of | Apr 1, 2015 | Medical Malpractice

Every year there are hundreds of thousands of people who need surgeries following car accidents, motorcycle accidents, slip and fall accidents, or from other circumstances such as heart disease or cancer. While the majority of surgeries help improve patients’ health conditions, sometimes surgery causes patients further harm. In fact, many people have been harmed due to surgical errors that were actually preventable.

Although every patient who undergoes surgery understands there is some risk of complication, no patient ever assumes they will suffer a further injury or have their health condition made worse due to a doctor’s negligence. However, some surgeons have made critical mistakes that fall below the accepted standard of care. Here are some examples of surgical errors that many patients have suffered from:

  • Leaving equipment inside a patient. When a surgical sponge or instrument is left inside a patient during surgery, the patient can suffer an infection or other serious complications.
  • Making an incorrect incision. When a surgeon makes an incision at the wrong site, a patient can suffer negative consequences such as nerve damage and damage to internal organs.
  • Operating on the wrong site or extremity. When a doctor operates on the wrong body part, a patient may endure an unnecessary surgery or have the wrong limb amputated—causing life-altering effects.
  • Performing an operation that was intended for another patient. When a surgeon operates on the wrong patient, a patient may be subjected to the negative effects that accompany surgery as well as an additional surgery.
  • Making an anesthesia error. When an anesthesiologist administers too much anesthesia to a patient during surgery or doesn’t monitor the patient properly, nerve damage, paralysis, and other serious side effects can occur. 

What’s Behind Surgical Errors?

When surgical mistakes occur, they usually are the result of one of the following:

  • Poor work processes and procedures. Doctors and nurses often miscommunicate which is why there should be strict protocols involved when it comes to surgery. For example, when operating on a patient’s extremity, a surgeon should double check which leg or arm the patient is having surgery on and initial it prior to surgery. This way miscommunication doesn’t occur and a patient doesn’t end up having surgery on the wrong limb. Also, there should be a process at the end of surgery that requires the medical staff to account for all surgical sponges and equipment so that a patient doesn’t end up with equipment inside his or her body.
  • Lack of preoperative planning. Before any surgery, a surgeon should review the patient’s medical history and conduct appropriate tests to determine if a patient is a candidate for a specific surgery. In addition to a patient’s medical history, the medical staff should also review the patient’s current medicine and double check what medications the patient is allergic to. When these steps are skipped, errors can occur. Additionally, a patient’s blood pressure and vital signs should be taken immediately prior to surgery to prevent any further harm from coming to a patient.
  • Anesthesiologist’s incompetence or negligence. Because anesthesia is a powerful drug that can cause life-changing injuries if too much is given or if the medication isn’t properly monitored, anesthesiologists have a critical job to make sure patients don’t suffer the adverse effects of anesthetics. Unfortunately, some anesthesiologists administer too much anesthesia due to incompetence or fail to monitor patients during surgery because they are distracted or tired.
  • Surgeon’s negligence or incompetence. Doctors work long hours and are often working while they are drowsy. Unfortunately, they can make critical mistakes due to their judgment being impaired by lack of sleep. Also, not all surgeons conduct procedures that are within the standards of reasonable care.

If you believe you have suffered the effects of a surgical error, our attorneys can determine if you are a victim of medical malpractice. Please call us at 703-721-4233 for a complimentary consultation to find out how we can help you.