Surgical Negligence: Common Surgical Errors and Medical Malpractice Lawsuits

Posted in: Medical Malpractice | Feb 20,2023

A major operation or surgical procedure of any kind can be a nerve-wracking experience for patients. Most often, fortunately, all goes well and the patient fully recovers. But sometimes surprises happen, things can go wrong, corners get cut, and mistakes are made. Errors by surgeons or anesthesiologists may constitute surgical negligence or medical malpractice and can cause serious, even fatal, complications. 

What kinds of surgery mistakes constitute negligent malpractice? Can you sue if something goes wrong during surgery? And what can you do if you or your family member suffer from a surgical error or doctor’s negligence?

These are urgent, important questions. Affected patients and their families deserve answers. This guide explains more about what surgical malpractice includes, what it can look like, and what can be done if you or a loved one experience a negligent surgical error. 


What Are Examples of Surgical Errors?

Errors and mistakes can occur at any point throughout a surgical procedure, with pre- and post-operation errors more common than mistakes made on the operating table. Research reveals more than 4,000 surgical errors occur in the United States each year, with key risk factors including distractions, time pressure, staffing constraints, missing or incomplete information, and the common thinking that surgeons’ decisions should never be questioned.


Some of the most common surgical errors resulting in injury to the patient include:

Wrong Operation

A surgeon may make an incision at the wrong location, operate on the wrong body part, or the wrong patient entirely. Miscommunications or missing information could lead to a surgeon performing the wrong type of operation or an unnecessary procedure on a patient.

Wrong-site surgeries or unnecessary operations place patients at undue risk, can cause permanent damage or loss of function, and often require patients to undergo additional corrective procedures. Before any induction of anesthesia or incisions, multiple independent healthcare professionals are supposed to confirm the patient’s identity, surgery site, and type of procedure consented to.


Objects Left Behind

Surgeons may leave a sponge, clamps, gauze, or other surgical instruments inside the body cavity after completing a patient’s procedure. This can cause severe pain with dangerous internal bleeding or infections.

Upon completing a surgery’s intended internal goals, but before wrapping up and shutting down the operating room, surgeons, nurses, and anesthesiologists should verbally verify all sponges and other instruments are accounted for. 


Failure to Inform

Because all surgeries involve some risk, doctors must obtain informed consent from their patients (unless life-saving emergency surgery is necessary). If your doctor fails to warn you about known risks or consequences of a surgical procedure, this may be considered negligence. 


Anesthesia Error

Anesthesiologists are highly trained specialists responsible for administering anesthesia and monitoring patients’ responses to anesthesia. Administering too much or too little anesthesia, or failing to take note of dangerous drug interactions, can cause a patient serious or fatal harm. 


Injuries During Surgery

A surgeon may make a mistake during an operation that causes nerve damage, tissue damage, muscle damage, organ damage, and more. It isn’t uncommon for a scalpel to slip by just a fraction of an inch, causing injury to an otherwise previously healthy part of the body. If a nerve near the operating area is damaged or severed, a patient could suffer long-term effects or diminished mobility and motor function.


These types of errors should never happen, but they do. Surgical mistakes can result from improper communication among healthcare team members, simple inattention, a lack of reasonable judgment, or a failure to monitor a patient’s critical vital signs or medical history.


Can I Sue for Surgical Errors?

Suppose you or a family member have suffered an injury or illness, or your condition worsened because of a surgical mistake. You may be able to sue the surgeon, the hospital or surgery center, the anesthesiologist, surgical assistants, surgical technologists, or other healthcare professionals who were responsible for your treatment. 

An adverse outcome of a surgery or even a surgical mistake is not always medical malpractice. The reality is that all surgeries come with some level of risk, and patients can suffer negative outcomes even when a doctor does everything they should. Patients receiving any surgery are typically already sick or injured, often raising questions and making it difficult to ascertain whether a doctor’s actions during surgery were the true cause of a patient’s injury or death.

To succeed with a medical malpractice lawsuit, you must show that you suffered harm and that your doctor or other healthcare provider treated you with substandard care. 

Doctors, surgeons, anesthesiologists, and other medical professionals are held to a standard of care for their respective professions. The standard of care is defined as the type and level of care that a doctor with similar background and training would and should administer under similar circumstances. In order to prove that a doctor did not uphold this standard, you will need an attorney who can consult necessary experts on your behalf and navigate your case through Indiana’s Medical Malpractice Act procedures.


How to File a Surgical Error Lawsuit in Indiana

If you’ve suffered an adverse outcome following a surgical procedure and you believe medical negligence was to blame, a lawyer experienced in similar complex cases can provide guidance on your case. 

In Indiana, you will first need to submit a complaint to the state’s department of insurance. There, your claim will be reviewed by a medical review panel, which will render an opinion on the merits of your case. The panel’s opinion isn’t binding, but the procedure is a prerequisite for filing a court complaint and pursuing compensation through the Indiana judicial system.


Trust Montross Miller with Surgical Malpractice Cases

The medical malpractice and surgical negligence lawyers at Montross Miller are experienced, compassionate, and highly knowledgeable about Indiana’s Medical Malpractice Act. Our experts navigate complex cases every day. Our team can answer your questions, review the details of your situation, and be your voice in the pursuit of justice. Reach out to our team today to schedule a complimentary, confidential case evaluation.