Surgical errors more common than patients might think

Stories involving surgical errors are often sensationalized in the media to the point that residents of Pittsburgh don’t believe it could actually happen to them. Surely, their physician wouldn’t perform a wrong-site surgery and amputate a leg. Many surgical errors never hit the headlines, however. Patients suffer from a wide variety of post-op problems that can be prevented such as sponges or equipment left inside of the surgery site, dangerous drug combinations and uncontrollable bleeding.

Each year, over 200,000 Americans die from medical errors. Even during routine surgeries such as a gall bladder removal, appendectomy or tonsillectomy, there is a risk of death. In order to remove the tonsils, surgeons either cut the tonsils out or burn them; during the procedure, however, a small artery can be hit and cause uncontrolled bleeding. Some patients clot more easily than others and doctors must quickly assess the situation to stop the bleeding. Other factors can contribute to surgical errors, complications and post-op problems as well. The patient’s weight, for example, can increase the risk associated with tonsillectomies. Before undergoing any type of surgery, patients should weigh the benefits against the possible risks. Patients are also encouraged give surgeons a complete medical history including drug allergies, past reactions to anesthesia and their propensity to bruising or bleeding.

It is reasonable to expect that patients will leave the operating room in better condition than they entered, not worse. If you or a close family member has suffered a burn injury, organ damage or another serious injury as a result of a surgeon mistake, you may want to speak with an attorney. You may be entitled to monetary compensation.

Source:, “When routine surgeries go wrong,” Jacque Wilson, Dec. 19, 2013