Although many people believe that complications during surgery typically only occur in more invasive procedures such as heart or brain surgery, potentially life-changing errors can occur during any surgical procedure. There are several common types of surgical errors that occur more frequently than others, making it important to understand the risks of any type of surgery before undergoing a procedure.
The following are five of the most common types of surgical errors that may be surprising to some.
1. Anesthesia Errors
Some of the most dangerous surgical errors involve anesthesia mistakes. Too much or too little anesthesia can cause serious problems or even death. While insufficient anesthesia can lead the patient to awake during surgery and suffer a significant amount of pain, too much anesthesia can lead to insufficient oxygen intake, leading to severe brain damage or even death.
2. Foreign Objects Left in the Body
Another common type of surgical error involves leaving various surgical instruments in the patient’s body following surgery. Foreign objects left in patients’ bodies often include pads, clamps, gauze, or scalpels. When left behind, these materials could cause serious pain and lead to severe internal injuries, culminating in infections. In more extreme cases, these incidents can even lead to the patient’s death.
3. Nerve Damage
Surgery requires precision throughout, from making initial incisions to addressing the primary health issue. Instruments such as scalpels can cause serious punctures and cuts that lead to permanent nerve damage. Nerve damage could then lead to debilitating injuries, infection, and long-term disability that changes a patient’s life.
4. Surgery on the Wrong Side
Many surgeries occur on the wrong side, which entails performing surgery on the wrong one of a pair of organs or limbs. For example, surgical procedures could be performed on the wrong kidney or ovary, or on the wrong leg or arm. As a result, the wrong organ or limb may be amputated while the diseased or damaged counterpart remains, leading to unnecessary injury and further complications resulting from the unhealthy body part.
5. Surgery on the Wrong Patient
While some surgeries involve procedures performed on the wrong side, others can involve the wrong patient entirely. Surgery on the wrong patient can occur if patients aren’t properly identified and verified before the operation, or if any miscommunication takes place between surgeons or other staff. Subsequently, patients may undergo surgery that they don’t need while their actual health issue goes ignored entirely.
Other Potential Surgical Errors
In addition to these common surgical errors, there are others that could occur depending on the nature of the procedure. For example, perforation of the bowel could occur when removing polyps or even during a routine examination of the colon via a colonoscopy procedure. Perforation of the bowel could lead to sepsis, which is potentially fatal if left untreated.
Another possible surgical error involves lacerations of organs such as the colon or bladder, which could cause internal bleeding. Over time, this bleeding could cause clotting that travels to the lungs, potentially causing a pulmonary embolism, which is often fatal.
Surgical Errors and Medical Malpractice
Oftentimes, surgical errors are the result of a surgeon or other medical professional’s negligence. Like other professionals, medical staff are required to meet a standard of care and do what they can to prevent injury to patients during surgery. While surgical procedures often come with certain inherent risks, negligence can still occur during surgery that leads to serious life-altering injuries and death.
If patients sustain serious injuries or wrongful death as a result of surgical errors, it may be possible for victims or their families to file malpractice lawsuits against liable negligent medical staff. Compensation recovered in these cases could help cover medical costs and other related damages resulting from surgical errors.