For some, a surgical error is obvious. If you go in for surgery on your right leg, but your bandages are on your left leg, the wrong-site surgical error is apparent. If your surgery was internal and you experienced a bad medical outcome, how do you know if it was the result of an error?

What are surgical errors?

The term, surgical error, refers to any error or mistake that occurs during or after surgery. Indeed, any deviation from the medical standard of care during or after surgery could be a surgical error. And, the consequences are negative medical outcomes, like disabilities, injuries or even death.

Examples of surgical errors

A common surgical error that may not be readily apparent is wrong-procedure or wrong-patient surgery. This occurs when your surgeon performs the wrong operation. Whatever procedure that they perform comes with the risk of further complications, in addition to the failure to treat your original condition. This means, you will still need to have another surgery to fix your original issue, which has its own set of risks, in addition to the medical care you may need as a result of the wrong-procedure surgery.

Another common hidden surgical error is leaving foreign objects inside you. These items can include anything from gauze to surgical instruments, and leaving them behind causes inflammation and possible infections, in addition to chronic pain from perforations, obstructions, the infection, etc.

Do I really need to worry about surgical errors?

Yes. Surgical errors are a huge problem. In 2017 alone, in Pennsylvania, of the over 1,000 reported medical errors, well over 50% were foreign objects left after surgery. And, according to the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania, in 2020, there were nearly 1,500 medical malpractice case filings in Pennsylvania.

How do I know if my bad medical outcome was a surgical error?

The unfortunate reality is that, unless the surgical error is obvious, you likely will not know that your bad medical outcome is as a result of a surgical error. Though, if your results were not as expected after a surgery, or if you experience side effects, get a second opinion. Just as another medical professional is needed for a medical malpractice case, often, to know you were a victim of a surgical error, you need another medical professional to diagnose it.