7 Examples of Surgery Malpractice

7 Examples of Surgery Malpractice

When you go into surgery, it is often to fix some medical problem or to fix an injury. What you do not expect is for a significant, life-changing error to occur. The unfortunate truth is that there are many things can go wrong in or after surgery that cannot be avoided. In this article, we will go over seven mistakes that may be considered surgery malpractice


Anesthesia Errors

Anesthesia is meant to help a patient either sleep during the procedures, relax during the procedure, or numb the area being operated on. Unfortunately, if the anesthesia is administered incorrectly or the patient is not monitored correctly, there can be dire complications.

  • Any number of things could be the cause of anesthesia errors. Including, but not limited to:
  • Poor (or no) communication before, during, and after surgery
  • Not following procedures for administration of anesthesia
  • Improper administration of anesthesia, including too little or too much.
  • Failed or inadequate intubation
  • Failed reaction to emergencies or changing conditions in surgery
  • And many more errors

The most common anesthesia-related injuries (in order of frequency) are teeth damage, death, nerve damage, organ damage, pain, and cardiopulmonary arrest.


Sponges, needles and other foreign objects left in the patient

The unintended retention of foreign objects (URFOs) or retained surgical items(RSIs) after a procedure can lead to death and those who survive may sustain both physical and mental harm dependent on the type of object and the amount of time it remains. Most URFOs are detected immediately after the procedure, during an x-ray, during a routine follow-up visit or by the patient reporting discomfort.

According to The Joint Commission, an accrediting organization for nearly 21,000 health care organizations and programs in the United States, the most common items left behind after a procedure are:

  • Soft goods, such as sponges and towels
  • Small miscellaneous items, including unretrieved device components or fragments (such as broken parts of instruments), stapler components, parts of laparoscopic trocars, guidewires, catheters, and pieces of drains
  • Needles and other sharps
  • Instruments, most commonly malleable retractors


Wrong Site Surgery

Wrong site surgery (operating on the incorrect body part) can be devastating to the patient. There have been incidences of the wrong body part being operated on, the wrong side (left arm instead of right arm), or even the wrong site or procedure being performed (mixed up patients).

The Joint Commission (see source) also identified 29 causes as to why an operation would/could be performed on the wrong body part. Here are but a few reasons:

  • Scheduling issues
  • Inconsistent use of site marking protocol
  • Rushing during patient verification
  • Primary documentation not used to verify patient
  • Procedure
  • Inconsistent organizational focus on patient safety
  • Competition and pressure to increase surgical volume leading to shortcuts and variation in practice


Infections from non-sterile procedures

Infections are caused by microorganisms entering open wounds. They are transmitted by non-sterile surgical equipment, non-sterile clothing from the medical staff or a non-sterile environment. Infections can also occur after surgery if the staff is not using sterile gloves or sterile dressings on the site of the surgery.

An infection can quickly turn into blood poisoning which causes fever, heart disease, nausea, or chills. There will also be classic signs of infection such as swelling or redness and an unpleasant smell, with pus.


Spinal cord damage during back surgery that causes full or partial paralysis

The smallest error in back surgery can lead to paralysis (full or partial) as well as permanent damage to the spine and brain.

Full paralysis is also known as quadriplegia or triplegia. There is diminished movement in the trunk as well as arms legs, hands, and feet.

Other symptoms associated with full paralysis are:

  • No or diminished sensation below the site of the injury.
  • Difficulty breathing without assistance.
  • Swallowing difficulties.
  • Difficulty controlling your bowels and bladder.
  • Phantom pain anywhere in your body.

The most common type of partial paralysis is paraplegia which is when there is paralysis of the feet, legs, and most areas below the waist. The effects of this kind of paralysis are dependent on the location of the injury. They may include:

  • Numbness or total loss of sensation in feet or legs
  • Being unable to walk or move as you wish
  • Incontinence, Constipation, Uncontrolled Bowel and Bladder
  • Intimacy challenges
  • Phantom limb pain


Improperly Dosing, Prescribing or Administering Medication Following Surgery

Prescription drug errors are a common form of medical malpractice. The effects can range from minimal to fatal depending on the error.

Some of the most common types of prescription drug errors are:

  • Using or providing the wrong medication, or wrong dosage of that medication.
  • Not taking into account patient allergies when prescribing or administering medication.
  • Administering mislabeled medication (the wrong type or dosage)
  • Prescribing medication that would have a negative interaction with other medications being taken by the patient.


Failing to Monitor or Discharging A Patient Prematurely

Failing to monitor or discharging the patient prematurely can be done by a doctor, nurse, nurse practitioner, or any other medical professional. These can lead to an injury becoming worse, increase the cost of medical expenses or cause the patient pain, emotional distress, or lost wages.


What To Do If You Have Experienced Any of These Surgery Malpractice Situations!

Unfortunately, medical malpractice happens. It is especially horrific if it happens to you or a loved one.  Determining if something constitutes surgery malpractice can be a challenge and is often wildly uncomfortable.  We can help.  

Contact a surgery malpractice lawyer here to help figure out if you have a case.


Additional Information and Sources: