What Is the Most Common Type of Surgical Error?

doctor reaching for surgical instruments during operation

Surgical errors take a number of different forms. Although not all errors during surgery give rise to a medical negligence claim, it is important to know your rights if you or a member of your family has been a victim of surgical malpractice.

Klein Lawyers understands the impact surgical errors have on patients and their loved ones. A surgical error lawyer at our firm can help you pursue compensation.

Please call Klein Lawyers at (604) 874-7171 today for a free consultation. We serve clients in Vancouver and throughout British Columbia.

What Is a Surgical Error?

A surgical error is any kind of preventable mistake that occurs during surgery. Surgical errors may occur due to issues such as miscommunication, inadequate training, lack of competence, and more.

To recover compensation for a surgical error, patients must prove the following:

  • One or more medical professionals (such as a surgeon, anesthesiologist, members of the surgical team, etc.) owed the patient a duty of care.
  • One or more of these professionals violated the duty of care through negligence.
  • The patient suffered injury as a result of the surgical error.
  • The patient sustained compensable damages as a result of the injury.

Surgery always involves some degree of risk. A surgical error, however, is an unexpected danger that arises due to the negligence of a surgeon and/or other provider.

Common Types of Surgical Errors

Not all surgeries go according to plan. You might have a viable medical malpractice claim if you or a member of your family suffered harm as a result of the following:

Retained Foreign Bodies

A retained foreign body is any type of object that is accidentally left inside of a patient during surgery. Examples include:

  • Surgical sponges
  • Towels
  • Guidewires
  • Surgical instruments
  • Pieces of equipment that break off during surgery

Needles, scalpels, and other “sharps” can damage healthy organs and tissues if they are left inside the body. Any retained foreign object also carries the risk of severe postoperative infection.

Over a period of 2 years, the Canadian Institute for Health Information recorded 553 instances of foreign objects being left inside surgical patients. Not only is this a 14% increase over the preceding 5 years of data, but Canada’s rate of retained foreign bodies is more than double that of 12 other OECD countries.

Wrong-Site Surgery

It may be unthinkable, but surgeons do sometimes operate on the wrong part of the body. Wrong-site surgeries can result in damage to or even the removal of healthy organs, limbs, etc. while failing to address the patient’s original complaint.

Miscommunication and a lack of formal procedures are often at the core of wrong-site surgeries. Both the surgeon as well as the hospital may be liable for these egregious errors.

Wrong-Patient Surgery

Performing the wrong surgery indicated for the patient’s complaint, operating on the wrong patient, and unnecessary surgeries may also occur due to catastrophic communication breakdowns in hospitals and surgical centres. These errors can leave patients with disfiguring injuries, damage to otherwise healthy limbs and organs, amputations, and more.

Just because you consented to surgery does not mean that you have signed your rights away. Unnecessary and inappropriate surgeries should be investigated promptly to ensure that the error is properly documented and your right to take legal action is preserved.

Internal Injuries

When done properly, surgical procedures consist of delicately operating on a diseased or injured area of the body while minimizing damage to nearby structures. Unfortunately, even the smallest errors can have devastating consequences.

Examples of surgical errors that can lead to serious internal injuries include:

  • Nicking a vein, artery, or blood vessel
  • Damaging nerves near the surgical site
  • Cutting into muscles, tendons, ligaments, and other soft tissue that lies outside of the surgical plane
  • Perforating the bowel or colon
  • Lacerations of the bladder
  • Broken bones

By acting quickly, the surgical team may be able to stop the bleeding and repair the damage from an accidental injury. However, continued negligence can compound the mistake and lead to serious and permanent injury or, in the worst-case scenario, the death of the patient.

Anesthesia Errors

Anesthesia must be administered carefully and patients need to be monitored for adverse reactions. When errors occur, patients are at risk for serious complications such as:

  • Cardiac arrest
  • Stroke
  • Damage to the airway
  • Brain damage
  • Injury to the spinal cord
  • Coma

The nature of the injury depends on the type of anesthesia used. For example, improper administration of an epidural (a type of regional anesthesia) can damage the spinal cord while general anesthesia errors can put a severe strain on the heart and deprive the body and brain of oxygen.

Postoperative Infection

After surgery, patients need to be monitored for signs of infection. Postoperative infection can occur even if all aspects of the surgery go according to plan.

Misdiagnosis and/or failure to diagnose an infection could be grounds for a medical malpractice claim if it is determined that the hospital and its employees failed to implement protocols for preventing infections, unreasonably delayed diagnosis and treatment of an infection, etc. Review of your medical records can help to unearth these errors and support your claim for damages.

Klein Lawyers Helps the Victims of Surgical Errors

Surgical errors are among the most common instances of medical negligence. They also tend to be very serious, frequently resulting in a host of physical, emotional, and financial ramifications.

If you or a family member suffered severe injury and/or worsening health due to a surgical error or you suspect malpractice resulted in your loved one’s death during or after surgery, Klein Lawyers is here to help. Our firm understands the unique challenges involved in medical malpractice claims, and we will fight for the maximum compensation you deserve.

Contact Klein Lawyers today for a free consultation.