Surgical Accidents Can Have Tragic Consequences

When a medical malpractice case is based upon the idea that carelessness during surgery has resulted in injury to a patient there are many possible areas of concern.

The Right Operation

First and foremost one must consider whether the operation was in fact indicated for the medical condition for which it was being offered. This may seem an impertinent question but there are numerous occasions where for a variety of reasons the surgery planned for a patient was the wrong operation or where no operation was indicated at all. Sometimes an operation, usually for cancer, is based solely on the findings by a pathologist made after looking at a slide containing a patient’s tissue. The pathologist is subject to error and can misinterpret characteristics seen in tissue on a microscopic slide. Such misinterpretations can have disastrous consequences. Meaning a patient may, for example, have an operation for a cancer when they do not in fact suffer from cancer.

Accurate Interpretation of Scans

Another example of such a case is a situation where the decision to operate in a particular way or at a particular location is based on the findings of an imaging study like an x-ray or a CAT scan. If the CAT scan is misinterpreted it may form the basis for an operation which should not be performed or if performed should be performed in a different way or in a different location.

Of course, equally troubling is the situation where a pathologist, laboratory scientist, radiologist or other imager fails to find tissue or signs of a condition requiring surgery of a particular kind and in a particular location and because of misinterpretations the procedure is never done.

Any time a surgeon’s decision to operate in a particular location is based upon in whole or in part the interpretation of another physician, errors can result in needless surgery, and therefore medical malpractice, being performed.

Delay In Diagnosis & Treatment Of Problems During & After Surgery

During surgery there are many things that can go wrong. Many injuries that occur during surgical procedures would have been avoidable if they had been accurately diagnosed and treated immediately. If you or a loved one suffered an injury due to a delay in diagnosis or treatment of a problem that arose during your surgery, you should contact our law firm for a free case review.

Examples include:

  • Delays in diagnosing a hemorrhage that leads to shock and death or brain damage
  • Delays in evaluating and quickly treating a patient following an acute stroke leading to permanent brain injury or death
  • Delays in treating an infection that leads to loss of limb or life

When Technical Errors During Surgery Cause Serious Injury

Surgical errors can be technical in nature. During a surgical procedure, there are landmarks which careful surgeons identify and tissue which prudent surgeons identify in order to guide the course of a surgery and to assure that unintended injury to structures not a part of the intended surgery does not occur.

Nerves vital to normal function and blood vessels vital to the survival of organs are often located within a surgical field. It is the obligation of a surgeon to avoid unintended injury to such structures and there are safeguards to be employed to assure that such structures are not damaged. A surgeon may become more attentive to the subject of his or her operation and carelessly bypass procedures intended to prevent injury to unintended organs or structures. This is but one example of operations which fail because of surgical technique.

Perhaps the most common type of surgical malpractice involved the failure to timely recognize and treat complications avoidable or not which have occurred. Hemorrhage following an operation is not an unanticipated complication. It’s early recognition and treatment are essential to preserve life and function. Infection is not an uncommon occurrence postoperatively but there are safeguards to be employed prior and during surgery such as prophylactic antibiotics and careful surveillance required after surgery so that an infection can be addressed at the time the signs of its presence first occur. Under the surgical technique the cholecystectomy case is another example and that subject is well covered by text appearing at the site.

For example, many infectious organisms produce chemicals during their life cycle which are damaging to the body tissue or function. Septic shock is an example of an infection so advanced that chemicals released by or present as a consequence of the infection interfere with the body’s ability to maintain blood pressure. Shock occurs. Vital organs are deprived of adequate circulation because of the falling blood pressure. Multi-system organ failure results. If infection is not treated properly before the occurrence of multi-system organ failure, death is likely. This demonstrates the danger of delay.

Retained Surgical Items Often the Result of Medical Malpractice

Shockingly, the incidence of surgical items mistakenly left inside patients has remained steady over the years. UpToDate estimates that retained surgical items occur in 1 in every 5500 to 18,760 inpatient operations, but may be as high as 1 of every 1000 to 1500 abdominal cavity operations, and even more common during emergency surgery. When a surgical instrument or sponge is mistakenly left inside a patient after surgery, medical malpractice is inevitably the cause.

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Evaluation of Anesthesia Case: Failure to Maintain a Patent Airway

The practice of anesthesiology is broad in scope extending from the control of pain and consciousness in the operating room or elsewhere to the control of pain generally in the hospital or even in the outpatient setting. In the operating room, the anesthesiologist, in addition to having an extensive monitoring role, has independent responsibility for evaluating and supporting cardiopulmonary function. Because of their monitoring functions, anesthesiologists, as a rule, document their activities contemporaneously and more thoroughly than any healthcare provider other than perhaps the critical care nurse.

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Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy and Increased Risk of Bile Duct Injury

An injury to the bile duct occurring during the course of a laparoscopic cholecystectomy, which injury results in recurring problems with the potential for permanent liver damage should be considered a case of possible medical negligence until proven otherwise. In general, when appropriate surgical safeguards are employed in the performance of a laparoscopic cholecystectomy there is no unintended injury to the bile ducts. Unintended injury to the bile ducts when it occurs is often a result of doctors having failed to employ those safeguards deemed appropriate for the performance of such a procedure.

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If you or someone you love has experienced a surgery in which a technical error led to a serious injury or death, you should contact our law firm for a free case evaluation. Don’t delay, there are limits on the amount of time in which you can file a suit. Learn more about the Statutes of Limitation in Pennsylvania.

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