How Common Are Surgical Errors?

When you enter a hospital or clinical practice for surgery, you expect to receive the best possible care from an experienced physician. You might think that the surgeon leaving an instrument inside your body is the least likely scenario, but errors during surgery are more common than people assume. It's estimated that more than 4,000 preventable surgical mistakes happen across the United States every year, costing approximately $1.3 billion in medical malpractice lawsuits.

"Never" Events

Some of the most serious surgical errors are called "never" events by experts because they should never happen if a doctor is performing their job correctly. However, these types of errors are startlingly common. When researchers analyzed medical malpractice claims from 1990 to 2010, they estimated that surgeons leaving a sponge or other tool inside a patient's body happened almost 40 times per week. Other serious mistakes like operating on the wrong body part or performing the wrong procedure occurred an estimated 20 times per week in the United States.

These kinds of errors can result in a patient's worsening condition or potential death. At the very least, patients typically have to undergo additional surgeries to correct the errors, increasing their recovery time and the time they must take off work to heal properly. A medical malpractice claim seeks to cover these expenses in addition to any emotional trauma the patient suffered due to the doctor's mistake.

What Causes Surgical Errors?

If a patient files a medical malpractice claim against their surgeon, it's possible that their lawyer will investigate the reason for the error. There are many potential causes behind surgical errors given that most surgical teams comprise multiple people with varying levels of experience. It's possible that members of the team did not communicate effectively about the patient or the procedure, or there could have been an error on the patient's medical chart about the dosage of medication or site of surgery.

It's also possible that the surgeon alone was responsible for the mistake. If the physician came into surgery overly fatigued or under the influence of alcohol or drugs, their negligence may lead to a significant medical malpractice payout. Other forms of negligence include taking unnecessary risks or shortcuts, failing to sterilize instruments, or knowingly using defective equipment.

Surgical errors are more common than you may realize, which is why it's important to consult a medical malpractice attorney if such an error does occur. An attorney may explain your rights and walk you through the process of pursuing compensation. Contact a local medical malpractice lawyer to learn more.