Common Surgical Errors That Indicate Medical Malpractice

Surgeons have an immense amount of responsibility. Each day, as surgeons walk into the operating room, their patients’ lives are held in their hands. As you know, every surgery involves risk. If you or a loved one are on the operating table, you trust the doctor will act with professionalism and medical responsibility. Although there are complexities and risks, you trust your surgery will be free of preventable surgical errors.  

Unfortunately, surgical errors do sometimes occur and can lead to devastating consequences or death. If the surgeon breaches the standard of care, the surgical error constitutes medical malpractice

You may have a medical malpractice case if you or a loved one has been the victim of a preventable surgical error. The team at Maples, Nix, and Diesselhorst have decades of combined experience representing Oklahomans who have experienced surgical error medical malpractice. After a surgical error, the medical bills, pain, suffering, and other losses can become overwhelming, but you will find an advocate and partner as you seek justice and compensation with the experienced OKC-based lawyers on our team.

8 Common Surgical Errors Oklahomans Should Know About 

1. Wrong Site Surgery 

Wrong-site surgery errors are a type of surgical error where the surgeon performs surgery on the wrong place on the body. For example, the patient has a cancerous growth on her left kidney, but the surgeon removes the right. Or the surgeon is operating on the wrong level of the spine. 

One study found that wrong-site surgery errors occur in approximately 1 of 112,000 surgical procedures; in other words, it is infrequent enough that an individual hospital would only experience one wrong-site surgery error every five to ten years.

2. Wrong Patient Surgery and Wrong Procedure Surgery 

Often featured as the stuff of late-night mystery shows, wrong-patient and wrong-procedure surgeries are, in fact, surgical errors that do occur. These types of human error are negligent and disregard patient safety. When a surgeon performs the wrong procedure on a patient or performs a procedure on the wrong patient, the doctor’s actions put lives at risk of catastrophic injury or even death.  

This type of surgical error is considered a sentinel event. A sentinel event is an unexpected event that leads directly to severe psychological or physical harm. This type of medical error requires immediate investigation. If you or a loved one have experienced wrong-site, wrong-patient, or wrong-procedure surgery errors, reach out to the team at Maples, Nix, and Diesselhorst today for a free case evaluation. 

3. Anesthesia Errors  

It’s true medical malpractice cases can be complex, and anesthesia errors are no exception. Errors related to anesthesia can lead to various complications for surgical patients. These errors may include administering too much or too little anesthesia, failing to monitor vital signs, or neglecting medical history or allergies. 

When an incorrect dosage of anesthesia is administered, errors can result in complications such as respiratory distress, cardiac issues, cognitive impairment, or psychological trauma. The failure of an anesthetic in a surgical setting can result in the patient waking during surgery, which could severely impact the patient. 

4. Infection or Failure to Follow Hygiene and Disinfection Protocol 

Surgical site infections can occur when proper cleanliness and aseptic technique protocols are not adhered to, introducing harmful microorganisms. Infection after surgery can sometimes indicate a failure to follow hygiene and disinfection protocols during surgery. 

These infections can result in prolonged recovery, additional medical interventions, and, in severe cases, life-threatening complications. Surgeons and healthcare providers are responsible for maintaining strict hygiene standards (like handwashing protocols and special protocols to ensure medical instruments remain sterile) in the operating room to minimize the risk of infections. Failure to do so may be considered a breach of the standard of care, and patients who suffer from infections due to lapses in hygiene protocols may have legal grounds to pursue a medical malpractice case

5. Foreign Objects Left Inside the Patient

The negligent retention of foreign objects inside a patient’s body after surgery is a serious and preventable medical error. The effects of retained foreign objects can be deadly. Such incidents, often called “retained surgical items” or RSIs can involve sponges, gauze, mesh, surgical instruments, or other materials inadvertently left inside a patient. 

These foreign objects can cause infections, pain, internal damage, and other complications. Failing to account for and remove all surgical instruments and materials post-operation is considered a breach of the standard of care. Patients who experience harm due to foreign objects left inside them may choose to pursue legal action against the healthcare professionals and facilities responsible for the error. If you or a loved one experienced a retained foreign object after surgery, our team of Oklahoma medical malpractice attorneys is prepared to help you. Contact us today

6. Medication Dosage Errors 

Medication dosage before, during, and after surgery is essential for the well-being of surgical patients. Medication dosage errors can occur when healthcare providers administer incorrect amounts of medications, leading to potentially severe consequences for patients. Whether it involves administering too much or too little medicine, the repercussions can range from inadequate pain control and surgical stress to life-threatening complications. Each year, in the United States alone, 7,000 to 9,000 people die as a result of a medication error (although dosage errors in surgery are just a subset of this statistic).  

Common causes of medication dispensing or dosage errors include: 

  • Expired Product
  • Incorrect Duration
  • Incorrect Preparation
  • Incorrect Strength
  • Incorrect Rate
  • Incorrect Timing 
  • Incorrect Dose (overdose, underdose, or extra dose) 
  • Incorrect Dosage Form
  • Incorrect Patient Action
  • Known Allergen
  • Known Contraindication
  • Pharmacist Error 

7. Nerve Damage and Organ Damage  

Nerve damage and organ damage resulting from surgical errors can significantly impact a patient’s quality of life, and, in some cases, can cause death. Nerve damage can occur for various reasons, including improper positioning during surgery, mistakes in dissection, or the improper use of surgical instruments. The consequences of nerve damage may range from temporary numbness to long-term impairment and chronic pain. 

Organ damage can result from surgical procedures gone awry, potentially leading to complications such as bleeding, hemorrhage, infection, or compromised organ function. Both nerve and organ damage may indicate a breach of the standard of care, requiring meticulous attention and precision in surgical practices. Contact our team today for a consultation if you suspect nerve or organ damage during surgery, maybe because of negligence. 

8. Equipment Failure or Improper Use of Surgical Equipment 

Equipment failure or the improper use of surgical instruments can lead to surgical errors with potentially grave consequences for patients. Surgical procedures heavily rely on precise and well-maintained equipment to ensure optimal outcomes. Malfunctions or defects in surgical tools can lead to complications, extended surgery times, and heightened risks for the patient. 

The improper use of equipment, whether due to inadequate training, negligence, or misjudgment, may result in unintended injuries (such as nerve or organ damage or infection). Surgeons and the medical team are responsible for ensuring that all equipment is in proper working order and used appropriately during procedures. 

Find Support From OKC’s Leading Medical Malpractice Lawyers 

These are just a few kinds of surgical errors; many more types of surgical errors may indicate medical malpractice. The attorneys at Maples, Nix, and Diesselhorst are here to be your partner in seeking accountability from the medical providers and compensation for the harm and damages you have incurred. We have a proven record of winning medical malpractice cases and securing compensation for our clients who have been the victims of surgical errors. 
Contact our team today for a free consultation. We’re ready to stand with you.

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