Types of Surgical Errors and How to Address Them

Types of Surgical Errors and How to Address Them

Surgical Errors and How to Address ThemDifferent Types of Surgical Errors

Some examples of common surgical errors include:

  • Anesthesia errors,
  • Wrong-site surgery (surgeon operates on the wrong body part);
  • Wrong-patient surgery;
  • Accidental nicks or lacerations;
  • Failure to assess patient risk factors; and
  • Foreign retained objects (surgical implements left in the body).

Many of these errors, especially wrong-site and wrong-patient surgeries and leaving surgical tools within the body, are obvious carelessness and should never happen. In fact, they are referred to as surgical ‘never events.’

Surgical errors may be caused by many different factors such as:

  • Incompetence;
  • Insufficient planning;
  • Poor communication amongst the surgical team;
  • Carelessness;
  • Fatigue; or
  • Drug and alcohol abuse.

Complications from Surgical Errors

Slips of a knife or other injuries can result in internal bleeding, septic bowel, urine leakage and other complications depending on the nature of the mistake. In some cases surgeons may not take the proper steps to repair the damage when they make a mistake, causing more damage to the patient.

Foreign objects left in the body can lead to pain, infections and other problems which many times go unrecognized. Misuse of anesthesia can be a fatal mistake as can failing to assess patient risks. Patients can be given drugs to which they are allergic and develop life-threatening conditions.

According to a recent Johns Hopkins Medical School study published in the journal Surgery:

  • 59 percent of surgical errors result in temporary injury;
  • 6.6 percent result in death; and
  • 33 percent in permanent injury.

Legal Options after Surgical Errors

Medical malpractice lawsuits resemble personal injury lawsuits but rely on the concept of a "standard of care." Generally, if the plaintiff can prove the physician or other professional provided care outside the standard of care expected of other reasonable professionals caused the injury, the patient may successfully recover compensation for damages. The standard of care is defined as the “type and level of care a prudent healthcare professional would provide under similar circumstances.”

Economic damages, such as lost wages and medical expenses, and non-economic damages, like pain and suffering or emotional distress, can be claimed in medical malpractice claims. In Ohio, there is a one-year statute of limitations on medical malpractice claims. The time limit begins when the plaintiff discovers, or should have discovered, the injury.

Ryan, LLP has over 50 years of combined experience holding careless individuals – including medical professionals – accountable for the damages they cause. Contact our office at 877-864-9495 to set up a consultation with a lawyer.

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