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There Is No Such Thing as a “Safe” Surgery

Given the wide range of cosmetic surgical procedures that are now available, many people have come to think of surgery as a more “common” occurrence. This may make some people think that surgery is not as risky as it once was. However, even “minor” surgeries carry significant health risks. Learn more about surgical errors and what you can do if you or a loved one has suffered from one.

How Do Surgical Errors Happen?

When we undergo surgery, we put our lives in our doctors’ hands. We trust that our doctors will perform the correct surgery properly. Sadly, however, this doesn’t always happen and, as a result, surgical errors are still startlingly common.

FAST FACT: The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality states that data from both mandatory and voluntary reporting systems indicate that approximately 1,300 to 2,700 wrong-site, wrong-procedure, and wrong-patient adverse events (WSPEs) occur yearly, with many occurring during outpatient procedures.

Of all WSPEs, “wrong side” surgical errors are the most common at 59%. An example of a “wrong side” surgical error would be a surgeon performing an operation on a patient’s left lung when they were supposed to work on the right lung. “Wrong site” errors are the second-most common at 23%. These involve surgeries that occur on the correct side of the body, but on the wrong organ or area. “Wrong procedure” comes third at 13%, and happens when a surgeon performs the wrong type of procedure on a patient entirely. “Wrong patient” rounds it out at 5% and occurs when the wrong patient is operated on; this often happens when patients’ names get mixed up.

a medical team performing a surgery

Which Surgeries Have the Most Errors?

Many people may believe that serious surgical errors only occur in major surgeries, such as those involving the brain, heart, lungs, and other vital organs. However, surgical errors can happen in any procedure, particularly ones where the patient is under anesthesia.

Cosmetic surgeries, for example, often involve surgical errors, including the following:

  • Hematomas. A hematoma is a pocket of blood that occurs in 1% of breast augmentation procedures. It’s also the most common complication after facelift procedures. While it’s a risk in all surgeries, doctors can take certain precautions to prevent these incidents, including draining any collection of blood that grows rapidly.
  • Seromas. A seroma occurs when body fluid pools beneath the surface of the skin. It can occur during any procedure but is most common after “tummy tucks,” occurring in 15-30% of patients.
  • Blood loss. Uncontrolled blood loss can occur on the operating table, either involving areas of incision or internally.
  • Infection. Infection can occur when doctors and nurses use unsterilized objects during the surgery or leave foreign objects in the body after the surgery. Infections occur in up to 2.5% of breast augmentation patients.
  • Complications of anesthesia. Any surgery involving general anesthesia is dangerous. The complications of improperly administered anesthesia include stroke, heart attacks, coma, and wrongful death.

a nurse listening to a patient's heart and lungs

The relative ease of getting elective surgeries has made the general public turn to surgical procedures for minor issues more than ever before. Given the potential risks and complications, surgery should always be a last resort, never the first option.

However, we understand that many surgical procedures are necessary. If you or someone you love has been harmed by a surgical error, our Baltimore medical malpractice attorneys are here to help make you whole again. We know the devastating physical, emotional, and financial consequences of surgical errors, and we want to help you through this difficult time.

Call Brown & Barron, LLC at (410) 698-1717 to schedule a free consultation.

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