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How Surgical Errors Can Result in Disabilities

 Posted on October 26, 2023 in Medical Malpractice

IL injury lawyerWhile to “err is human,” making an error during surgery can bear significant consequences. 

A mistake during surgery may result in a patient having to live with a long-term disability - so much so that an estimated 7 million people experience surgical complications each year, with one million patients succumbing to their injuries.

If you or someone you love has been the victim of a surgical error, look no further than our Rockford medical malpractice attorney.

Frequency of Surgical Errors

According to a recent study conducted by Johns Hopkins University, more than 4,000 surgical errors take place in the United States annually. These are known as “never events” since they are errors that were entirely preventable and should never have occurred.

The study examined malpractice data from the National Practitioner Data Bank, which added up to 9,744 malpractice claims with payouts totaling $1.3 billion. 

Of these malpractice claims, the following was discovered:

  • 59.2% of patients were temporarily disabled;
  • 32.9% of patients were permanently disabled; and
  • 6.6% died.

What are Common Surgical Errors?

The most common surgical errors can be broken down into three categories:

Wrong Site Surgery

Whether it be removing the wrong kidney or amputating the wrong leg, wrong-site surgeries happen about forty times in a given week in the United States.

There are various reasons that the wrong side of the body or the wrong body part may be operated on or removed, but contributing factors may entail:

  • Miscommunication between surgeons and the patient;
  • Failure to mark the operation site;
  • Failure to include the patient and family members when identifying the surgical site;
  • Inadequate patient assessment or inadequate care planning; and 
  • If multiple procedures are being performed on multiple body parts during the same procedure.

A patient who has the wrong kidney removed or a limb amputated will be at a greater disadvantage since the body part that was operated on was likely healthy prior to surgery. In some surgeries, the stakes are much higher. If wrong-site brain surgery is performed, a patient may lose the ability to speak, suffer from strokes, and require “round-the-clock” care.

Foreign Objects Left Inside Patient

Surgeons leave foreign objects, such as sponges and surgical instruments, inside of patients daily, with roughly 39 incidences occurring each week. This can cause localized pain, discomfort, and even infection. 

Symptoms of a foreign object left in the body may include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fever 
  • Headaches
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Bloody or black stool

Sometimes, a surgical instrument that is left inside a body cavity can result in sepsis, which is an inflammatory process that can result in multiple system organ failure and eventual death. 

Nerve Damage

A minor slip of the scalp can result in nerve damage. Even though nerve damage can result from the positioning of the patient on the table, oftentimes, it is caused by the surgeon cutting directly into a nerve, causing damage to the myelin sheath. In this scenario, electrical activity will likely be compromised between the nerves and the brain.

While only between 0.5% and 2% of patients will suffer permanent nerve damage following surgery, injury to your nerves can have a profound impact on your ability to complete routine tasks.

Signs of nerve damage may involve tingling, numbness, muscle weakness, and burning. Patients who suffer nerve damage may constantly drop things due to muscle weakness. 

If you have fallen victim to a surgical error, a Winnebago County surgical error lawyer will be able to recover damages for your injuries, lost wages, and other losses you have endured.

A Rockford, IL, Medical Malpractice Lawyer Ready to Help

Even if a surgery is considered “routine,” mistakes can and often do happen. Negligence on the part of the surgeon or medical team should be brought to justice. If you have suffered permanent or long-term disabilities due to a surgical error, help is available. Contact our Winnebago County, IL, malpractice attorney from Mannarino & Brasfield, A Division of Schwartz Injury Law today to schedule your free consultation. 


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