surgical malpractice

There are three phases of surgery: pre-operative, the surgery itself, and post-operative. At any time during these three phases surgical errors can occur. To minimize these errors, most surgeons adhere to a strict routine. Any deviation from the routine can result in surgical malpractice.

Pre-operative miscommunication

It’s essential for the surgeon to clearly communicate with the patient before surgery. During the pre-operative discussion and evalutation, the surgeon must identify the patient, determine whether the patient will be able to physically withstand the surgery, and answer all of the patient’s questions.

In many cases, the anesthesiologist will also visit with the patient to confirm his or her identity, answer questions about the effects of the anesthesia, and to confirm the patient hasn’t eaten for a period of time before surgery (to assure the patient won’t vomit during surgery). The surgeon should also cover:

  • The nature of the surgery
  • Reasonable alternatives to surgery
  • Possible risks of the surgery and after-effects
  • Benefits the patient can hope to get from the surgery
  • Informed consent
  • During surgery

The most critical part of surgery occurs in the operating room. This is when the patient is most vulnerable, and in most cases, unable to communicate with members of the surgical team. To avoid surgical errors, the surgeon must:

  • Have the training and experience to safely perform the procedure
  • Communicate effectively with members of the team
  • Perform surgery on the correct body part
  • Not leave surgical tools in the patient’s body
  • Post-operative actions and omissions

Post-surgery is a critical time for the patient, and when they are at their weakest. During this time, patients are vulnerable to infections and other complications that can negatively affect their recovery. The surgeon may not be directly responsible for post-surgery complications, but he does have a duty to follow up with the patient, answer any questions, and confirm the patient is safe from unnecessary harm.

During post-surgery, danger often comes from the hospital environment. If a room isn’t properly disinfected and sanitized, or if a patient is exposed to a sick employee, the patient’s health can rapidly decline. The most common infections contracted in hospitals are caused by staph, strep, methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), and clostridium bacteria.

Common Surgical Mistakes

Wrong site surgery

Wrong site surgery occurs when the surgeon operates on the wrong part of the body. By so doing, healthy organs may be wrongfully removed, or limbs unnecessarily amputated.

Unnecessary surgery

Unnecessary surgery can occur when a patient is misdiagnosed, when the surgeon is incompetent, when the patient is greedy, when the surgeon misrepresents the need for surgery, or when the surgeon convinces the patient he needs more extensive surgery than is medically required.

Damage to internal organs

Damage to internal areas of the body occurs when the surgeon mistakenly punctures or perforates an organ, artery, connective tissue, intestines, or other internal body part.

Instruments left in patient’s body

Surgical instruments such as sponges, retractors, and surgical blades are sometimes left inside the patient’s body. The Center for Disease Control published a study confirming each year an estimated 15,000 patients have a surgical instrument left inside their body post-surgery.

Infections and complications

Surgical instruments not properly sterilized before use can transfer bacteria to the patient during surgery. When operating rooms aren’t frequently disinfected, they can become contaminated with bacteria and infectious diseases. Also, the surgical team must fully “scrub in” before touching the patient or the surgical tools.


Disclaimer: This information is not a substitute for legal advice.  Laws change from time to time, so if you are injured, protect your rights and call today at 1-800-598-2440 or contact the Womick Law Firm online.


Information from Injury Claim Coach