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Surgical Error Types

Every year, thousands of preventable errors are made during surgical procedures. These mistakes cost billions of dollars in medical malpractice. As a patient, the last thing you want to hear is that an error was made during your procedure. However, there are many surgical error types and no matter how unexpected they are, they can occur.

Types of Mistakes Made in the Operating Room

There a many different types of errors that occur during both minor and major surgical procedures. Some of these errors include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Wrong-site Surgery – This happens when a surgeon performs the procedure on the wrong body part. This can happen if the patient’s chart was marked incorrectly, or it can simply be the surgeon’s negligence.
  • Wrong Patient Surgery – In addition to performing surgery on the wrong body part, a doctor might have the wrong patient’s chart. This can also cause an unnecessary surgery and could lead to further complications for the patient.
  • Foreign Object in the Patient – During surgery, some surgeons have left an item such as a tool, or gauze inside the patient. The patient might not discover this error until days or weeks later when they suffer complications.
  • Organ, Tissue or Nerve Damage – A surgeon could accidently clip a nerve during surgery or puncture another organ with the scissors or scalpel. This mistake can lead to further health problems.
  • Infection or Contamination – Unsanitary products used during surgery can cause an infection or disease. Patients could experience major complications and this contamination could possibly be fatal.

Recent studies have shown that surgical mistakes most often happen to people between the ages of 40 and 49. Also, nearly two-thirds of surgeons that have been involved in a surgical mistake have had more than one malpractice report in the past.

 Why Do Surgical Errors Occur?

As there are many surgical error types, there are also numerous reasons for why these mistakes occur. No two surgeries are the same and there is no way to determine if a mistake will occur. Some causes of surgical errors are:

Lack of Experience – If your surgeon lacks the skills and experience necessary to complete the surgery, there is a greater chance for error. When talking to your surgeon, you might want to find out how many of those particular surgeries he or she has performed.

Insufficient Planning – Before your surgery, it is crucial that your surgeon has reviewed your information, and prepared for any complications. Lack of preparation by the surgeon or nurses can lead to various complications.

Fatigue – Surgeons often work many hours with minimal rest. Unfortunately, this can cause many mistakes during your surgical procedure.

Negligence – A surgeon might slip up if they are not careful during each procedure. Even the most menial task needs to be done carefully to avoid mistakes.

Substance Abuse – As with any profession, substance abuse could affect the surgeon’s ability to carry out the procedure. Often times due to the stress and high pressures of the job, surgeons turn to drugs or alcohol, which can cause many malpractice issues.

 Filing a Malpractice Lawsuit

Before you start a surgical procedure, you should voice any concerns with your surgeon or nurse. Unfortunately, mistakes during surgical procedures happen more often than you might expect. If you or a family member has experienced any of these surgical error types, you might have a malpractice case. You should speak with a medical malpractice attorney to discuss your case further. Medical malpractice cases can be very complex, so it is important that your lawyer has experience handling similar cases.



“Thousands of Mistakes Made in Surgery Every Year.” Jennifer Warner. WebMD Health News. Web. 26 Dec 2012. <https://www.webmd.com/news/20121220/thousands-mistakes-surgery>

“Surgical Errors and Medical Malpractice.” Shad Withers. NOLO. Web. < https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/surgical-errors-medical-malpractice.html>

“What Are the Surgical Errors that Can Lead to a Medical Malpractice Case?” HG.org. Web. < https://www.hg.org/article.asp?id=33431>