There is no greater act of faith than allowing one’s self to be operated on. When we undergo surgery, we’re putting our lives in the hands of others. Fortunately, only trained and licensed medical professionals are legally allowed to perform surgery.
That said, surgical errors do occur – and at an alarming rate. It is estimated that over 4,000 preventable surgical mistakes are made each year in the United States alone. Part of the reason for this is that it takes a number of medical professionals to perform an operation, and even a small blunder can set off a chain reaction that results in a catastrophic error. Communication between the surgical team and attention to detail are vital in preventing surgical errors, and it’s the duty of each member to perform their job with that in mind.
Common Surgical Errors
The following are some of the more common surgical errors that occur. They are all considered “never events,” meaning that they are errors that should never occur under any circumstances.
- Leaving foreign objects in a patient’s body: It is estimated that this surgical error occurs in one out of every 10,000 surgeries. Depending on the object left in the body, this error can cause severe infection; extreme, chronic pain; and death. Items commonly left in a body include surgical sponges, gauze, clamps, and scalpels.
- Surgery performed on the wrong patient: This error can lead to the removal of healthy organs, the need to have the intended surgery performed later, and often revision surgery or medical treatment to correct the first (incorrect) surgery.
- Wrong site surgery: This is when the surgeon operates on the wrong organ or limb, such as amputating the wrong leg or removing the wrong kidney. It is estimated that this error occurs once in every 100,000 surgeries, or 40 times per week in the U.S.
- Wrong procedure performed on patient: This error is similar to operating on the wrong patient. An example might be a patient who goes into the hospital for knee surgery and ends up having an appendectomy.
- Anesthesia errors: Anesthesia errors are among the most deadly of all surgical errors. If a patient is administered too much anesthesia, it can result in the patient getting too little oxygen. This can cause brain damage and death. However, if the patient is given an insufficient amount of anesthesia, the patient can wake up during the operation and experience excruciating pain. This is called “anesthesia awareness,” and although less than 1% of patients suffer from this problem yearly, that still amounts to thousands of people in the U.S.
- Surgeon error: A mistake like a tiny slip of a scalpel can cause serious injuries, such as a punctured lung or permanent nerve damage.
- Surgical fires: Surgical fires are fires that occur in, on, or near a patient during surgery. They are caused by the three elements of fire accidentally come together: ignition, fuel, and oxygen. The ignition source may include electrosurgical units, fiber optic light sources, or lasers. The fuel source may include alcohol-based skin preparations, surgical drapes, clothing, and even the patient’s body. The oxygen source can be room air, oxygen from a breathing tube, or nitrous oxide. In the United States, it is estimated that 550 to 650 surgical fires occur each year. While relatively rare, surgical fires can cause second- and third-degree burns, disfigurement, and even death.
It is our sincerest hope at the Florida offices of Faiella & Gulden, P.A., that neither you nor a loved one ever experiences one of these “never events.” But, in the unfortunate event that your family suffers from a surgical error, rest assured that we will use our nearly 40 years of medical malpractice experience to get you the compensation you deserve. All it takes is a simple phone call to (407) 647-6111 for a free case evaluation.
We require no legal retainer or upfront fees, and you pay nothing unless we prevail. Call us for your free consultation.