What Causes Surgical Errors?
If you’ve suffered harm due to a surgical error, you probably want to know why. With all the precision and organization associated with operating rooms, how did your procedure go wrong?
For a specific answer, you may need to hire a medical malpractice lawyer to investigate the cause of your surgical injury and identify all those responsible. However, there are certain general areas of surgical error we can explain.
Here are some of the most common causes of surgical error:
Incompetence of a surgeon or their team can lead to surgical error. An amateur surgeon may take on a surgical task he or she has no experience with due to ambition. A surgeon may be pressured into trying a new procedure because of scheduling matters or hospital convenience. In either instance, they could cause unnecessary harm that a specialized surgeon would avoid.
An operator with less experience than a more practiced surgeon, or a support team that hasn’t worked together before, means there’s a higher chance of error and failure. When it comes to surgical procedures, that is unacceptable.
Improper communications can lead to disastrous mistakes in an operating room. Handwritten notes, electronic messages, or information spoken either in person or over the phone, must be clear, direct, and confirmed to avoid preventable errors.
Improper or Insufficient Planning
Planning a procedure as thoroughly as possible before picking up a scalpel is key. While not all procedures will go according to plan, preparing educated alternatives beforehand makes a surgeon more likely to adapt quickly to keep you safe. Even situations of emergency surgery like those done after an accident or disaster cannot be handled in a cavalier, let’s-see-what-happens manner.
Proper planning means having the right tools and equipment sterilized and ready to go, as well as having the time and space necessary for the procedure and patient recovery. If those minimums are not met, it may be a case of medical malpractice that requires legal consideration.
Making a mistake in the midst of a surgical procedure can be a critical incident, as it could kill or permanently maim the patient. Likewise anesthesia errors, or mistakes made with the surgical instruments or equipment in the room, can mean the difference between life and death.
If the room and tools used during a surgical procedure are not fully sterilized, it could lead to a deadly infection. Similarly, if those in the operating room are not properly gowned, capped, and masked, a sneeze, a button, or hair accessory could impact a vulnerable patient.
Top surgeons can be in high demand. Because the skills necessary to perform a successful operation are so difficult to gain and maintain, there may be a situation where one surgeon in a country or region is the only one who can perform certain lifesaving procedures on brains, hearts, or infants.
If that is the case, a surgeon may be in back-to-back surgeries for days, and the longer that goes on, the more likely it is that they will become fatigued, and more prone to making avoidable errors.
Operating Under the Influence
If you or your loved one has suffered harm from a surgical error, your pain may be worsened if you find out it was because the surgeon was drunk, high, stoned, or otherwise intoxicated during the procedure. Showing up to work hungover is unacceptable in most workplaces, but when it’s done by a surgeon it could be considered criminally negligent.
The same could be true if the surgeon is using stimulants to stay awake and alert. While intention may matter when it comes to the legal consequences they may face, if your surgeon is under the influence of problematic substances while operating on you or your loved one, they should still be held responsible for the harm they’ve caused.
Hiring a surgical error lawyer may be your best hope for finding out what caused your injuries during a procedure, and obtaining the support you need to recover from the damage done. Contact Osborne & Francis to discuss your options and your needs today.
What Are the Most Common Types of Surgical Mistakes?
We’ve covered some of the potential reasons behind why surgical errors occur. Now we’ll discuss what those errors mean for the patient.
Keep in mind that these are new injuries caused by surgical error, which may mean your original ailment wasn’t treated at all, or was possibly made worse by the surgery meant to correct it. A delay in surgery due to a botched procedure could cause far more pain and suffering than a correct procedure.
Furthermore, in cases of emergency surgery where there was only one chance to be successful, a surgical error could cause the death of a patient. Such a scenario would likely merit a wrongful death medical malpractice lawsuit, but no legal action could bring back the person lost. This is why surgical errors are treated with life-and-death seriousness.
Common types of surgical error include:
Wrong-Side and Wrong-Site Errors
Operating on the wrong side of the body, at the wrong site for the procedure, or even just making an accidental incision that wasn’t necessary, are all potential instances of malpractice. These incidents should be 100% avoidable, which is why they’re known as “never events” because they should never happen. When they occur, it’s because something went wrong.
A surgical error attorney may be the person you need to find out what happened and who is responsible.
Items Left Inside the Patient
Also known as “gossypiboma” or items “retained” by the body, these are terms for foreign materials that are accidentally left inside a patient’s body after surgery. Surgical sponges, pads, and clamps that remain in a patient after the procedure can cause later complications like infection, interference in surrounding organ processes, and pain.
Gossypibomas are also instances of “never events,” because if the materials brought into the operating room were properly accounted for at the end of a procedure, no item should be “lost” inside the patient. These types of surgeon errors cannot be overlooked.
Wrong Surgery/Wrong Instruments
If a patient consents to imaging or an exploratory procedure, and wakes up with a part of themselves altered or removed, the violation is severe. Whatever the reason, whether it’s misdiagnosis or miscommunication, it is a clear breach of professional standards.
Likewise, a surgeon may perform the right procedure with wrong or improper instruments. For example, using a blunt tool rather than a precision instrument could be the result of poor planning or incompetence. Either way, if it leads to a larger incision than necessary, that also brings a higher risk of infection, scarring, or other complications.
Improper Monitoring and Anesthesia Complications
Anesthetic complications can be dangerous and even deadly. Surgeries where the patient must be rendered unconscious require a competent anesthesiologist to administer the proper amount of anesthesia, and to monitor the patient’s vitals for any large or subtle changes.
Too much anesthesia could lead to a lack of oxygen, overdose, heart failure, or brain damage in a patient. Too little anesthesia could cause a patient to wake during surgery, and experience the same fear and pain that results from torture. As with the other surgical errors discussed here, this is not how surgeries are supposed to be performed, and such failures are inexcusable.
Nerve or Tissue Damage
A slip of the surgeon’s hand during surgery can sever nerves or damage tissue that did not need to be touched. Such errors could cause permanent nerve damage, paralysis, loss of blood to vital organs, and other complications.
Once more, a practiced surgical error lawyer will help find out the cause of surgical mistakes, because understanding and legally proving the cause is what may get you access to recovery care that you need.
These injuries are not just simple surgical mishaps; these are preventable damages that often result from poor planning, incompetence, and possible negligence.
An experienced medical malpractice attorney will work to prove that the standard safety procedures were known, but ignored or improperly followed by the surgeon, anesthesiologist, and/or nursing staff. This is necessary for securing a settlement or damages award for your future care, and as restitution for pain and suffering you’ve experienced.
Reach out to the offices Osborne & Francis today either online or by calling us at (561) 293-2600. Our surgical error lawyers are ready to discuss your case at no charge.
In the meantime, read on to learn more about what a settlement or successful verdict for surgical error could mean for your recovery.