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Six Surgical Mistakes with Deadly Consequences

By: Anapol Weiss

Surgical mistakes are the stuff of nightmares: a surgeon amputating the wrong limb, a patient contracting an infection from unsanitary equipment, or even an instrument being left inside of a patient. While mistakes like these are rare, they can have serious or even fatal consequences. The following examples are among the mistakes that may occur during surgery:

  1. Damage to organs, tissue, or nerves. Surgery on an organ does always carry some risk, and the organ operated on will take time to recover. However, surgeons can make mistakes by damaging neighboring organs or tissue. The tissue of organs is extremely delicate; severe residual issues can occur if an organ is accidentally nicked. Nerve damage from surgery can also be extremely risky, as patients can be left without feeling in a certain part of the body. Nerve damage may occur during the surgery itself, or when anesthesia is being administered.

  1. Intraoperative bleeding. During surgery, delicate arteries can be nicked or lacerated. The resulting bleeding may be severe and unstoppable, and patients have died when surgeons failed to rectify the situation.

  1. Unsanitary surgical instruments. This surgical mistake can be one of the most subtle but also the most dangerous. Unsanitary surgical equipment can be especially dangerous if the patient already has a compromised immune system, whether it is related to the surgery in question or not.

  1. Wrong site surgery. This surgical mistake occurs when a surgeon inadvertently operates on the wrong body part or organ. At many hospitals, the correct body part will be clearly marked before the patient goes under anesthesia. However, wrong site surgery still occurs if the body part was not marked, if it was not marked clearly enough, or if the surgery is internal.

  1. Wrong patient. In some cases, a patient has been misidentified and received the operation intended for another patient. Patients should be sure that they have some kind of correct identification on their person before going into surgery (an ID bracelet or something similar).

  1. Surgical device left behind. While this mistake may sound far-fetched, it is actually entirely possible that a surgeon may forget to remove a small instrument or sponge before sewing the patient back up. Some hospitals require surgeons to account for all equipment before and after surgery, but some do not. Discuss these regulations with your doctor before your surgery.

Patients should stay aware of possible mistakes and act as their own medical advocate as they go through surgery.

Surgery is risky by itself; patients cannot afford to go through the added danger of a surgical mistake. If you suffered an injury or illness as a result of a surgical mistake, you may have been the victim of medical negligence. The medical malpractice attorneys at Anapol Weiss have decades of experience handling medical malpractice cases. Contact us to get your legal questions answered.