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Surgical Errors Every Patient Should Know

Four doctors wearing blue scrubs in operating room

While it may seem frightening, every patient preparing for surgery and their family members must understand the risks that come with an operation. More specifically, it’s essential to understand what can go wrong in the operating room and how likely it is to happen. To help illustrate this point, we need to examine three severe surgical errors every patient should know.

Anesthesthetic Error

Most surgical procedures require some amount of anesthetic, either regional or general. However, many patients may not realize that anesthesia carries a huge amount of risk from both the chemicals and their administration.

First, an anesthesiologist must be sure to account for the patient’s medical history, including systematic diseases, past uses of general anesthetic, allergies, and family history. Failure to account for these factors can lead to either an overdose or an adverse drug reaction that could lead to cardiovascular or respiratory failure. In particularly severe cases, an anesthetic error can result in coma or death. In general, older patients are at a significantly higher risk of having anesthesia-related complications.

One of the leading causes of anesthetic errors before and after surgery is the negligent “syringe swap.” This refers to the common case (about 1.5 million instances per year) where a doctor fails to verify the medication (often because drug names look alike or sound alike) before administering it to a patient.

If the doctor wasn’t paying attention, they might administer additional sedatives instead of the reversing agent. This means the patient is unconscious longer, and they are at a greater risk of experiencing brain damage and other injuries.

Incorrect Surgery or Patient

Have you been to the hospital recently and found the staff asking your name and birthdate every time they enter the room? If so, it means they’re taking steps to prevent one of the most devastating kinds of surgical errors, those where the doctor either operates on the wrong patient or the wrong body part.

When this surgical error happens, there are typically two outcomes. In some cases, a doctor makes the incision, realizes there’s nothing to fix at that location, and then sutures it shut, leaving the patient with an extra scar and a more difficult healing process. In cases of severe negligence, the doctor might continue with the operation as planned regardless of whether there’s anything wrong with that part of the body.

These issues of operating on the wrong site or the wrong patient are surprisingly common, with about 7,500 record cases per year. The suffering and long-term health complications that follow these unnecessary procedures can be life-changing. Therefore, it’s crucial that anyone impacted by this error contact an attorney immediately.

Tool Left Inside the Body

If this was the first thing that comes to mind when you think about surgical errors, you’re not alone. Discovering a foreign object (such as a clamp, forceps, or a sponge) left behind during surgery is one of the most frightening types of medical malpractice. You likely won’t realize the object is inside you until it causes complications like pain or internal bleeding.

This error is more common than you might expect, occurring in about 1-in-5,000 surgeries. That amounts to about 1,500 cases of identified foreign objects per year, with potentially more patients still unaware of their condition. Remember, doctors and nurses have a responsibility to account for all their tools before and after surgery. If they don’t account for all their equipment, they are displaying negligence in the operating room.

How a Medical Malpractice Attorney Can Help

If you were impacted by a surgical error, you should contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney as quickly as possible. Once you identify the malpractice, the clock is ticking, and you often have a limited amount of time to seek the damages you need for additional surgeries and medical care, as well as pain and suffering.

When an attorney takes your case, they’ll often handle all the investigating, negotiating, court filings, phone calls, and paperwork on your behalf. When our attorneys take your case, you can focus on what’s most important, your recovery.

If you or someone you love suffered severe injuries during surgery, we can help. If you want an experienced New York City personal injury attorney from Simonson Goodman Platzer PC to fight for your recovery, don’t hesitate to send us an email or call (800) 817-5029.