Why Do Surgical Errors Occur?

Surgical errors occur during surgeries of all kind, and unfortunately at a very high rate. Thus, many say that there is no such thing a “minor” surgery, as any operation opens you up to new risks. However, not all surgical errors stem are considered medical malpractice — some mistakes may not leave the patient injured, or they were not caused by substandard care.

Surgical Errors

A surgical error is a preventable mistake that occurs during surgery. All surgeries involve some degree of risk. When the patient agrees to a procedure, they are giving “informed consent” that these risks accompany it. However, surgical errors are different from the normal risks accompanying surgery — they are unexpected.


Although some surgical errors are more common than others, much like surgery, no two errors are alike. Thus, the cause of these errors are unique as well. Below is a list of the more common surgical errors:

  • Incompetence Incompetence can have a variety of causes. Your surgeon may not have performed the procedure many time before, and thus may be more prone to error. Sometimes, the surgeon even lacks the skills necessary to successfully carry out the procedure.
  • Insufficient Preoperative Planning – A surgeon must be well prepared for a surgery, both mentally and physically. They should review the surgery, prepare for any complications, and brief the nurses and assistants. Further, it is important to make sure that all of the necessary equipment is ready and available when needed.
  • Fatigue – Unfortunately, fatigue is a very common problem amongst surgeons. They work long hours, leading to fatigue. Those who are tired are not as focused as well-rested people, and are more likely to make mistakes.
  • Drugs/Alcohol – Surgeons endure hours of stress nearly everyday in the workplace. In turn, some use drugs and alcohol to cope with this pressure. Although it’s very surprising to most, surgeons do enter the operating room under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Neglect – Not all surgeons are perfect, nor are they all as careful as they should be. Some surgeons may fail to sterilize their instruments after a surgery, potentially leading to an infection. Others may be aware that a certain tool is defective, and attempt to use it anyway.

Examples Of Errors

There are a wide variety of problems that can stem from surgical errors, both short and long term. Some of the most common errors include the following:

  • Injuring a nerve during surgery
  • Administering too much or too little medication
  • Performing an incision at the wrong location
  • Leaving a piece of surgical equipment inside a patient
  • Operating on the wrong body part
  • Operating on the wrong patient

Talk To A Medical Malpractice Lawyer

If you believe you or a loved one are the victim of a problem caused by a surgical error, it is important to seek legal guidance. Contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney today, as they will help you develop and pursue your case.