When we need to go into surgery, we all trust that medical professionals will complete the operation safely and without any errors. But sometimes this trust is violated. If you were recently the victim of a surgical error, you may be wondering:

  • Does this error constitute medical malpractice?
  • What if this error causes health complications?
  • Could I have grounds for a lawsuit?

Our experienced Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyers can help you understand your legal rights.

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two surgeons in operation

Anyone who’s had to undergo surgery understands how stressful the experience can be. In the weeks leading up to the procedure, it’s normal to feel a mix of anxiety and fear as we anticipate going under the knife. One way to ease these worries is to remind ourselves that we’re in the care of trusted, highly-trained medical professionals. But unfortunately, surgical errors are more common than most of us would like to think.

Although these mistakes are considered “never events” in the medical world (mistakes that should never happen), a study by WebMD estimates that more than 4,000 preventable surgical errors occur every year in the U.S. Victims of these mistakes can face long-term health complications, disabilities, and may even die due to an avoidable medical mistake. The healthcare professionals responsible for allowing these costly mistakes to occur can be held liable for medical malpractice.


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What Are The Most Common Surgical Errors?

In the previously mentioned WebMD study, researchers found that each week, surgeons:

  • Leave a foreign object (i.e. a sponge, surgical tool, etc.) inside a patient’s body following an operation about 39 times
  • Perform the wrong type of surgery about 20 times
  • Operate on the wrong body part or wrong person about 20 times

It should be noted that these accidents are likely even more common than the statistics suggest, as many surgical errors go unreported. In most cases, surgical errors like items left behind after surgery are only discovered if the patient experiences complications after the procedure.

In cases that did involve complications, about 59% of patients suffered from temporary injuries, 33% from permanent injuries, and 6.6% died because of surgical errors.

Frequency Of Malpractice Judgments & Claims For Surgical Errorssurgeon making incision

Between 1990 and 2010, there were a total of 9,744 paid malpractice judgments and claims in cases involving surgical errors. In total, $1.3 billion was paid out to patients who suffered health complications because of one of these never events.

These surgical mistakes are considered never events because if all safety rules are closely followed, they should never happen. Hospitals throughout the country have several safeguards in place to prevent these mistakes, including:

  • Mandatory “timeouts” to make sure everything matches in the operating room
  • Counting sponges and other equipment before and after procedures
  • Using checklists
  • Marking surgery sites with ink

But sometimes, human errors still allow easily preventable mistakes to happen. In about 2/3 of surgical errors, the surgeon involved had been cited in at least one previous malpractice report. It’s important to hold these negligent medical professionals liable for their mistakes so victims can get the support they need and so others aren’t harmed by similar errors in the future.

What To Do After Suffering A Surgical Error

If you or a loved one has recently discovered health complications related to a surgical error, it’s important to understand your legal rights. Our Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyers are experienced in these types of claims and can help you plan for your next steps in a free consultation. We advise taking legal action as soon as possible in order to make sure you meet Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations. Additionally, filing a claim notifies healthcare facilities that one of their physicians has made an easily avoidable mistake like a surgical error, which can help prevent others from suffering similar complications.

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