Undergoing a surgical operation of any kind can be daunting, and after surgery, you likely do not want to learn that a surgical mistake was made or that a follow-up (corrective) procedure needs to happen. Unfortunately, surgical errors are not as uncommon as you may think. Research suggests that at least 4,000 surgical errors occur annually in the United States.
Types of Surgical Errors
Whether you are having an appendix removed or having a triple bypass done, you could experience complications during or after surgery. These complications could be the result of mistakes made by your healthcare providers. Some of the most common types of surgery errors include:
- Wrong-site surgery. Sometimes, surgeons may operate on or remove the wrong organ or body part. For instance, a patient may have their wrong limb amputated.
- Unnecessary surgery. Because of poor communication or hospital mix-ups, surgery may be performed on the wrong patient.
- Infection. If the surgical equipment is not properly cleaned or checked, a patient may suffer from infection due to unsanitary surgical instruments.
- Instruments left in the patient. Most hospitals require their staff to count the surgical instruments, sponges, gauzes, and other items in the operating room before and after surgery. However, not all hospitals ask their staff to do this and even in hospitals that do, instruments and items can be left in patients’ bodies after surgery.
- Internal organ damage. During surgery, surgeons may accidentally nick or damage other organs or tissue, which can cause severe internal trauma that can cause lasting health issues.
- Nerve damage. If a surgeon makes a mistake or the anesthesia is improperly administered, a patient may suffer from temporary or permanent nerve damage.
Why Do Surgical Errors Occur?
Here are some of the main reasons that surgical mistakes are made.
- Fatigue. Because of their demanding schedules, hospital staff, including nurses, surgeons, and anesthesiologists, may make mistakes due to being tired. Drowsiness can affect a person’s concentration, memory, and ability to function; if a healthcare provider is tired, that can be dangerous for their patients.
- Improper work processes. Sometimes, a surgeon or nurse may take shortcuts before or during the surgery that can have life-altering consequences for their patients.
- Incompetence. Surgeons have different levels of experience, and no surgery, even if it is the same procedure, is alike. If your surgeon has not performed procedures similar to yours or has not had to deal with complications that may arise, that can lead to errors being made.
- Poor communication. If everyone on your medical team does not properly communicate, a mistake is likely to be made, such as marking the wrong site for surgery or operating on the wrong patient.
- Poor preoperative planning. Before operating on you, your surgeon should review your medical chart and take other steps to prepare for the operation. Nurses should also check the medical equipment and ensure the operating room has everything needed for surgery.
- Substance abuse. When healthcare professionals abuse alcohol or drugs, they endanger their patients, especially if they perform surgery while under the influence.
Prevention of Surgical Errors
Oftentimes, surgical errors are avoidable, and healthcare providers and hospitals can take steps to address key risk factors, such as a surgeon’s arrogance (i.e. not wanting to be questioned), distractions, poor staffing, etc. To help improve patient safety and reduce the number of surgical mistakes made annually, the following provisions should be introduced in hospitals and institutions.
- Have a surgical checklist. Having a checklist that reminds all personnel to complete crucial tasks like reviewing the consent form or double-checking what type of procedure should take place.
- Confirm patient identity. Enforce the rule that two healthcare professionals have to check and confirm the patient’s identity before starting the operation.
- Enforce verbal confirmations between staff. While working (i.e. before making any incisions, administering drugs, etc.) and after the surgery is completed, surgeons, nurses, anesthesiologists, and other staff members should verbally verify that specimens have been taken and labeled and discuss the patient’s status.
- Institute a standard preoperative pause. Another important safety measure involves the surgical team taking a moment before the surgery begins to ensure that costly mistakes aren’t made. During the pause, the confirmations can occur, and other defined protocols can take place.
Are You a Victim of Medical Malpractice? Contact Our Firm.
Surgical errors can mean more surgeries and corrective procedures and can lead to huge medical expenses. Victims of medical malpractice and surgical mistakes can also suffer lost wages, undue pain and suffering, loss of quality of life, and other economic and non-economic damages. If the surgical error was caused by negligence or a breach in duty of care and caused damages, victims and/or their families can pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit.
At Zayas Law Firm, our attorneys have over 45 years of collective experience, and we are equipped to handle a variety of medical malpractice cases, including surgical errors, birth injuries, medication errors, misdiagnoses, anesthesia errors, and medical product injuries. If you or a loved one have suffered injuries because of a surgical mistake, we can advise you on whether you have a case. Once you retain our services, our team can also:
- Calculate the damages you are owed
- Establish liability and prove fault
- Investigate the circumstances of the accident
- Develop a solid case strategy
- Handle the negotiations or litigation process
- Collect evidence (including expert testimony and opinions)
- Work tirelessly to achieve the best possible case results
To learn more about how we can help you, schedule a case consultation with our team by reaching out online or via phone (860) 278-0820 today.