Skip to Content
Free Consultations 888-918-9890

Common Types of Surgical Errors


Surgical errors, though uncommon, can have devastating consequences for patients. When these errors fall outside the realm of acceptable practice, they may constitute medical malpractice. For a surgical error to be considered malpractice, there must be a demonstrable breach of the established standard of care (i.e. the level of skill and care that a reasonably prudent surgeon would exercise in a similar situation).

Several factors can contribute to surgical errors. For instance, miscommunication between surgeons, anesthesiologists, and nurses can lead to confusion about the procedure or the patient. Fatigue among medical staff can also impair judgment.

Additionally, deficiencies in pre-operative procedures, such as incorrect site marking or inadequate imaging studies, can increase the risk of errors during surgery. While complications can arise even with the best care, preventable surgical errors can have serious legal implications.

What Are the Most Common Surgical Errors?

Surgical errors that can rise to the classification of malpractice include (but are not limited to):

  • Wrong-site surgery. Wrong-site surgery is a blatant violation of the standard of care expected from medical professionals and is a clear-cut case of medical malpractice. Surgeons have a fundamental duty to ensure they are operating on the correct anatomical location, laterality (left versus right), and even the correct patient. This involves established protocols like pre-operative site marking, confirming patient identity with multiple checks, and a "time-out" procedure before incision to verbally verify all critical details. When these safeguards fail due to negligence, fatigue, or communication breakdowns, and surgery is performed on the wrong site, it constitutes a serious breach of trust and can lead to devastating consequences for the patient. The potential for additional surgery, prolonged recovery, and unnecessary pain and suffering make wrong-site surgery a prime example of actionable medical malpractice.
  • Wrong surgical procedure. Performing an unintended procedure, even if on the correct site, is malpractice. This could be due to miscommunication or a failure to properly diagnose the underlying condition.
  • Retained foreign object. Leaving surgical instruments, sponges, or other objects inside the patient's body after surgery. Not only do patients have to have another surgery to remove the foreign body, but they can also suffer health issues because of the object.
  • Nerve or organ damage. Unnecessary or avoidable injury to nerves, blood vessels, or other organs during the procedure can lead to a malpractice suit.
  • Anesthesia errors. This type of error can occur at various stages of the surgical process. Pre-operative errors involving inadequate patient assessment or failure to identify allergies or medication interactions can lead to a selection of the wrong anesthetic or potential complications during administration. During surgery, mistakes in dosage, improper monitoring of vital signs, or delayed response to developing issues like airway obstruction can cause oxygen deprivation, cardiac arrest, or even brain damage. In the post-operative phase, inadequate pain management or failure to recognize and address respiratory depression can also constitute malpractice. The key factor, as always, is whether the anesthesiologist's actions fell below the expected level of care, resulting in injury to the patient.
  • Surgical-site infections. Infections arising from improper sterilization techniques or inadequate post-operative wound care can be grounds to sue.
  • Lack of informed consent. Informed consent is a cornerstone of medical ethics and a legal requirement to protect patient autonomy. In the context of surgery, failing to obtain informed consent constitutes medical malpractice when it deprives the patient of the right to make an informed decision about their care. For consent to be considered valid, it must be given voluntarily by a competent patient who possesses a full understanding of the relevant information. This information should include the nature of the proposed surgery, the potential benefits and risks involved, the likelihood of success, and any alternative treatment options available. A crucial aspect is ensuring the patient comprehends the information and has the opportunity to ask questions and address any concerns. If a surgeon performs surgery without obtaining informed consent, or if the consent is not truly informed due to inadequate explanation or a patient under duress, it can be considered malpractice, especially if the patient suffers harm as a result of the surgery.

Talk with Our Malpractice Attorney

At Belushin Law Firm, P.C., we have helped countless clients obtain favorable results, and we have recovered millions of dollars in damages for our clients. Backed by over a decade of legal experience, our team is here and prepared to help you understand your rights and options and establish liability in a surgical error malpractice case.

Contact our team today to learn more about our services. Call (888) 918-9890.

Share To: