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5 Most Common Surgical Errors

Thousands of Alarming (and Preventable) Medical Mistakes Are Made During Surgery Each Year

Surgical errors are devastating events that occur all too frequently. Researchers estimate that thousands of medical mistakes are made each year during surgery, causing harm to patients across the United States. Many of the errors are preventable, including so-called “never events” or wrong-site, wrong-procedure, or wrong-patient operations.

At The Beasley Firm, LLC, we are Pennsylvania’s leading medical malpractice law firm, having obtained two of the largest verdicts against negligent healthcare providers in state history. Our award-winning legal team has fought and won medical malpractice lawsuits for over 60 years. If you suffered harm as a result of a surgical error, contact our office at for a free consultation. 

Common Surgical Errors Resulting in Liability

Medical errors are a leading cause of preventable death in the country. An estimated 400,000 hospitalized patients experience some sort of harm every year, leading to approximately 100,000 deaths. It is further believed that at least 4,000 of these mistakes occur during surgery.

5 of the most common surgical errors include:

  • Foreign objects left inside a patient’s body
  • Anesthesia and other medication errors
  • Wrong procedure performed
  • Operation on the wrong body part
  • Accidental nerve damage or organ perforation

Despite knowing the high rate of incidents resulting in harm to patients, many doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers have done little to decrease the number of surgical errors that occur each year. Disturbingly, it is believed that the true number of medical mistakes or “near misses” is vastly underreported. 

Foreign Objects Left Inside a Patient’s Body

Foreign objects left inside a patient’s body are one of the leading forms of surgical error in the United States. Research indicates that retention of foreign objects occurs in as many as 1 out of every 1,000 to 8,000 procedures.

Foreign objects commonly left inside a patient’s body:

  • Sponges
  • Surgical instruments
  • Needles
  • Towels
  • Gloves
  • Clamps
  • Gauze
  • Tubing

Foreign objects left inside a patient’s body after surgery can cause life-threatening infections such as sepsis. Other complications may include internal bleeding, scar tissue buildup, organ perforation, bowel obstruction, or severe pain. 

A patient who has a foreign object left in their body after surgery might be entitled to compensation through a medical malpractice claim. It is highly recommended that you contact an attorney immediately. 

Anesthesia and Other Medication Errors

Anesthesia and other medication errors are significant problems in the healthcare industry. Common mistakes include overdosing, failure to identify allergies, and administration errors. As with other medical mistakes, many of these errors are preventable caused by inexperience and understaffing.

Wrong Procedure Performed

One of the most egregious oversights committed in the operating room is when the wrong procedure is performed. Communication gaps between medical staff and the patient or a failure to follow safety precautions are often to blame for these devastating events. 

An incorrect procedure performed on a patient can require months of healing and may delay the patient getting the actual care they need. It is imperative that hospital staff keep open communication between patients and their medical team, as well as between staff and the surgeon performing the operation.

Operation on the Wrong Body Part

Another “never event” occurs when an operation is performed on the wrong body part. Multiple studies have concluded that wrong-site operations are a common problem in the operating room (OR). 

Wrong-site surgery can include operations performed on the:

  • Wrong patient
  • Wrong body part
  • Wrong side
  • Wrong anatomic level

Surgeons must be adequately informed about the patient’s history and should do a proper preoperative assessment to determine that the correct surgery is being performed on the correct patient. 

Accidental Nerve Damage or Organ Perforation

Surgeons who are under extreme time pressures are more prone to making costly mistakes. A slip of the scalpel or imprecise cut can have huge consequences, including nerve damage or organ perforation. 

Common causes of surgical errors include:

  • Incompetence
  • Inadequate staffing, supervision, or training
  • Poor communication
  • Failure to follow safety protocols
  • Improper preoperative assessments
  • Incomplete patient history
  • Distraction

In addition to human error, the increase in the number of robotic surgeries has resulted in thousands of injuries. According to one study, there were over 144 deaths and more than 1,000 injuries linked to the use of surgical robots. Robot-related injuries may result from broken instruments, electrical sparks, and lacerations to surrounding tissue.

Contact Our Office for a Free Medical Malpractice Case Evaluation

If you underwent a surgical procedure and suffered harm as a result of a medical mistake, contact our office at for a free case evaluation. We can help you understand your rights and determine whether you would be eligible for compensation based on your injuries. 

Our award-winning legal team has obtained over $2 billion in verdicts and settlements for our clients. We have been fighting and winning medical malpractice claims for over six decades and have a history of securing record-setting results for our clients. Call now to get started.

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