Mistakes That Lead to Operating on the Wrong Side of the Brain

However frightening it may be, brain surgery may be necessary when a person is diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor or even a benign mass that is growing too large. Surgery may also be necessary to prevent a stroke, reduce seizures, or to treat a traumatic brain injury. Patients facing brain surgery assume that the doctor performing the surgery is qualified and has the medical training necessary to perform a specialized neurological surgery, but these surgeons can make mistakes. Whether it is a slip of the scalpel causing permanent damage or miscommunication that leads to a wrong-site surgery, these mistakes can be devastating to the patient.

When Brain Surgery Goes Wrong

What could possibly lead to a surgeon operating on the wrong side of a patient’s brain? It often starts with poor communication or mishandling of patient information. Mistakes that can happen include the following:

  • Mix-up of preoperative tests. In rare circumstances, one patient’s test results can be mixed up with another’s. When this happens, a neurosurgeon may be using the wrong CT scan, MRI result, ultrasound, or X-ray to map out the surgery. Consequently, the doctor may drill into the wrong side of the skull and have to make another incision or hole in the skull. Another possible scenario is that the neurosurgeon makes a mistake when reading the test results. For instance, the imaging tests may show that the patient is bleeding on the left side of the brain, but the neurosurgeon reads the scan incorrectly and operates on the right side of the brain. Not only will the patient need an additional surgery, but the doctor has risked the patient’s life unnecessarily.
  • Careless fiducial placement. Fiducials are small foam stickers that are placed on a patient’s head prior to a craniotomy, usually the day before surgery. This is to help the neurosurgeon map out the brain with the use of a surgical navigation tool. When the fiducials are placed in the wrong spot or fall off and aren’t put back in the correct location, the accuracy of the tool can be negatively impacted. Thus, negligence regarding fiducial placement may result in a surgeon making an unnecessary hole in the brain—a wrong-side craniotomy. Consequently, a patient will need another risky surgery.

When neurosurgeons fail to give their undivided attention during preoperative planning and fail to follow protocols, it is possible for a mistake to occur that can lead to operating on the wrong side of the brain and an additional and unnecessary hole in the skull. When critical mistakes such as these occur, patients can be at risk for infections, further brain damage, and life-altering consequences such as communication difficulties, disfigurement, physical impairments, and more. As a result, the patient may lose his ability to support himself and may need around-the-clock care for the rest of his life.

Not only is a wrong-side brain surgery horrific for a patient, but it is also devastating for the patient’s family. Many family members end up being their loved one’s caretaker, and everyone ends up suffering emotionally and financially. If your loved one was permanently injured because of a wrong-site brain surgery, he or she may be due compensation for lost wages, loss of enjoyment of life, pain and suffering, medical care, and other future costs.

Medical malpractice cases are complicated. They require a law firm that has not only the legal knowledge to pursue a case, but the knowledge of medical procedures to prove a claim. At Shevlin Smith, we have the experience you need to get the compensation you deserve. To learn more about your rights to a medical malpractice lawsuit, please call our office or contact us online today for a free consultation.