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What Are the Most Common Surgical Errors?

Each year, more than 4,000 Americans scheduled for surgery are seriously harmed or even lose their lives due to surgical errors. Of these, roughly 1-in-3 cause permanent injuries, and 1-in-18 result in a fatality. Because these errors are not rare, it’s important for patients to understand a few of the most common surgical errors before their operation.

Wrong Surgery, Wrong Patient

If you’ve been to a hospital recently, you may have had hospital staff ask your full name and date of birth whenever they enter the room. They do this to prevent wrong-surgery and wrong-patient errors. Despite these practices, an estimated 25% of medical malpractice claims in the U.S. involve wrong-surgery or wrong-patient errors.

One study analyzing wrong-surgery, wrong-patient errors found that about 17% resulted in injuries or fatalities. When these injuries happen, it’s not uncommon that the patient needs a second surgery to reverse the harm, which opens the door to more surgical complications and a significantly longer recovery.

Foreign Objects

This error describes any situation where a surgeon leaves their tools inside the patient’s body. Often, patients aren’t aware anything is wrong until they experience symptoms (like discomfort or internal bleeding) months or even years later.

There is no excuse for these mistakes. Surgeons should make sure all of their tools are accounted for before closing the incision. Despite this, there are an estimated 1,500 foreign object claims per year, and many more people may be walking around with tools inside of them without realizing it.


Post-surgical infections are common, occurring in about 2-3% of all surgeries. That’s an estimated 230,000 cases per year! The worst part is that these infections aren’t always obvious. While some occur at the incision site (superficial infections), others are deep tissue or even organ-related infections.

Left untreated, these infections can worsen into an abscess. In extreme cases, the infection could spread into the bloodstream, causing sepsis. For these reasons, medical staff must keep a close watch for potential infections and warn patients about risk factors before the operation.

Anesthesia Errors

Anesthetic errors are arguably the most common kind of surgical error (1.5 million cases per year), which is frightening because some amount of anesthesia is used in most surgical procedures.

The reason is negligence. Anesthesiologists must account for a patient’s full medical history, including their family history, current conditions, past surgeries, and other risk factors. When they don’t, they risk administering an overdose or using the wrong drug and causing an adverse reaction.

Even when the dosage is correct, anesthesiologists are prone to a phenomenon called “syringe swapping.” This means they either reach for the wrong medicine or administer “look-alike, sound-alike” drugs without verifying the name. Not only does this increase the risk of overdose, but it puts vulnerable patients (such as the elderly and immunocompromised) at higher risk of passing away from anesthesia-related complications.

Pursuing Justice for Surgical Errors

Surgical errors often carry life-changing consequences, which is why it’s essential to hold doctors accountable for their negligence. Remember that you only have a limited amount of time from the date you discover the malpractice to file a claim. If you wait to contact an attorney, you may lose your chance to pursue justice.

If you’ve or a loved one experienced one of these surgical errors or any others, it’s important to understand your rights and contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney immediately. An attorney on your side will fight on your behalf while you rest and focus on your recovery.

To schedule a free case consultation with an experienced Florida personal injury attorney from Gunn Law Group P.A., please call (813) 993-1448 or send us an email.