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Surgical Mistakes

During a surgery we literally place our lives in the hands of health care professionals. Unfortunately surgical mistakes happen more often than most people might think, and they can take place before, during, and after surgery.

Issues that arise before surgery usually involve patients that shouldn’t be having surgery in the first place. Unnecessary surgeries are performed when a doctor doesn’t appropriately assess a patient’s signs and symptoms, comes to mistaken diagnosis, and then performs a mistaken surgery. Other times a patient might have “co-morbidities” (other diseases or conditions, like diabetes, heart disease, or high blood pressure) that outweigh the need for a surgery that isn’t absolutely medically necessary.

Issues commonly seen during the surgery itself include injuries to other body structures, like organs, blood vessels, nerves, or bowel; non-sterile technique that leads to infection; retained sponges, towels, and instruments; and even wrong site surgery. We also see errors in anesthesia and nursing care that can also lead to devastating results.

Post-surgical issues commonly stem from a failure to recognize and treat injuries that occurred during surgery. For example, if the colon is perforated during an abdominal operation, its contents can leak into the abdomen and cause an infection. If not recognized and treated promptly the infection can turn into sepsis (an infection of the entire blood stream) and result in brain injury, loss of limbs, and even death.

An example of a surgical mistake case handled by the attorneys at Kelley/Uustal is the case of a young man who underwent back surgery. Following the surgery he became pale, cold, short of breath, disoriented, and anemic. His doctors and nurses failed to recognize that during the procedure they had nicked an artery that was then bleeding into his abdominal cavity – and that his post operative condition was due to this ongoing blood loss. Eventually he lost so much blood that he arrested. He was left with a brain injury. What’s worse, the back surgery during which all this happened was botched and had to be re-done in a later back surgery by a different doctor! A confidential settlement was reached.