Types of Medical Malpractice Insurance

Surgical Error


Most Common Cases of Surgical Error Malpractice

All surgeries involve a level of risk and surgical error cases can happen even to the most skilled surgeons. Surgical errors are those that result from a preventable mistake happening during surgery. Even though patients typically sign an informed consent form stating known risks for a specific procedure, these mistakes go beyond the known risks and are unexpected.

The most common cases of surgical malpractice include nerve injury, wrong site surgery, infection, surgical instruments left inside the body and operating on the wrong patient. Surgical mistakes can happen due to a number of things including:

  • Lack of skill in a particular procedure
  • Insufficient preoperative planning
  • Improper work process
  • Lack of communication
  • Neglect

Which Specialties Are Affected the Most?

Statistics show that surgical errors are amongst the top most common preventable medical errors leading to malpractice claims. Amongst the claims in the study, general surgery accounted for 15.3% of malpractice claims, 19.1% by neurosurgery, and 18.9% by thoracic-cardiovascular surgery. Additionally, data from the New England Journal of Medicine indicates the following cases and specialties affected are the most common:

  • Plastic surgery. Scarring, disfigurement, caving of surgical site, paralysis and death
  • Orthopedic surgery. Total knee/hip replacement, knee arthroscopy, exploration and decompression of the spinal canal, shoulder arthroscopy and rotator cuff repair
  • General surgery. Wrong site surgery, wrong patient surgery, unnecessary disfigurement, nerve injuries, unsterilized equipment
  • Thoracic-cardiovascular surgery. Accidental injury to neighboring organs, infection of chest cavity, surgical equipment left behind in patient’s body, death
  • Impairment of coordination, vision or balance, muscle strength, memory, and speech

What Can Practitioners Do to Limit the Occurrence of Surgical Error Cases?

There are a number of things that can be implemented in order to reduce the cases of surgery malpractice including, but not limited to:

  • Implementing a comprehensive surgical safety checklist
  • Improving documentation and review
  • Improving critical care outreach to prevent readmissions

For patients, being on the operating table can be a stressful and vulnerable position. While surgeons, and other medical practitioners, operate under the “do no harm” oath, there are still inherent risks with surgical procedures and the possibility of malpractice. It is important for surgeons to be prepared by implementing preventive initiatives as well as by being covered in case of a surgical error lawsuit.

 Read more about common types of medical malpractice cases here.