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When a Surgical Accident Becomes Medical Malpractice

Surgical Accidents and Errors are More Common than You Might Think

When your life is quite literally in your surgeon's hands, you want to be able to trust that person. But surgical errors in the operating room are far from rare. A 2006 study by the National Institutes of Health reported on over one thousand neurosurgeries and the surgical error statistics are rather sobering.

The NIH looked at the time period encompassing May of 2000 to August of 2006. This included some 76.1% cranial surgeries, plus 22.7% spinal procedures, and 1.2% was other kinds of procedures. They found a long list of surgery accidents. There were almost 2,700 errors, representing just over 87% of the studied cases. The most common errors ended up being technical (just under 28%), then contamination (a little over a quarter of the surgical negligence studied), equipment failure or even missing equipment (just over 18%), or it was delay-related (12.5%). Of these errors, over 22% were considered major and the NIH designated the remainder as minor. A good 2.7% of these errors substantially impacted the patient's clinical course (e. g. chances of recovery and healing, time in care, etc.). Most troubling: of all of these errors, the NIH considered 78.5% to be preventable. That is a lot of unnecessary surgery malpractice.

Not all Errors and Accidents Will Amount to Malpractice

Just like everybody else, surgeons sometimes make mistakes, and those mistakes, even during surgery, do not necessary constitute actionable medical malpractice in Pennsylvania.

To determine if surgical errors are actionable under Pennsylvania medical malpractice law the conduct at issue must be compared to what a reasonably prudent surgeon would have done under the same circumstances. The surgeon in question only had to deliver reasonable care, "C" conduct if we were to use letter grades. Patients in the American medical system are not entitled to great care, they are not entitled to good care. Patients are entitled to average care. As a result, if a patient does not receive great, or good, care that failure will likely not be actionable under Pennsylvania medical malpractice law.

Types of Surgical Malpractice

Surgical negligence claims come in several distinct varieties. Let's look at a few.

Negligence during Surgery

Negligence during surgery can encompass any number of issues; everything from scalpel damage to internal organs and tissues, to objects left behind, and anesthesia errors. It can encompass what seems unthinkable, when surgeons operate on the wrong limb or even the wrong patient. Unfortunately, surgical negligence can also result in loss of bowel or bladder function, paralysis, and even death.

Unnecessary Surgery

What if you didn't really need surgery? After all, even surgery which goes off without a hitch can be painful and debilitating, not to mention time-consuming. And that does not even take preparation and recovery time into consideration. Therefore, if you get unnecessary surgery, then you have been put through all of that for nothing.

Foreign Objects

If the surgical team starts off the procedure with twelve sponges, then they had better end up with twelve sponges at the end of the operation. If the team does not properly account for all of their equipment before, during, and after the procedure, then a surgical error has occurred.

Nerve Damage

A patient can suffer nerve damage during surgery if a surgeon commits an error and nicks a nerve or severs the nerve unintentionally. An error in the administration of anesthesia or operative positioning can also cause nerve damages, and sometimes that damage can be permanent.

Infections and Improper Postoperative Care

Did the doctors and nurses keep the sterile surgical environment scrupulously clean and free of contamination? Did medical personnel change the dressing frequently enough after the procedure concluded? Did everyone wash their hands before touching the incision area and the bandages, each and every time? Did the doctors check carefully for signs of complications? If the answer to any of these questions is 'no', then negligence occurred during postoperative care but you probably do not yet have a case. The standard of care in the United States is, sadly, that a patient should expect to get an infection in the hospital setting. The focus of these cases is whether the infection was promptly identified and treated. If not, the an actionable case may exist.

Medication Mistakes

There are a number of different ways medication errors can occur. These can include mistakes in labeling, applying or prescribing incorrect dosages, neglecting to treat a problem as indicated by the patient's vital signs, and even documentation errors. A lot of medications have rather similar spelled or similar sounding names. But that does not excuse these acts of medical malpractice.

Do you have a Surgical Malpractice claim?

Rosen, Louik & Perry is a recognized leader in medical malpractice claims in the Pittsburgh area and western Pennsylvania. We have a strong intake procedure which we use to determine whether you have a case. We will honestly assess your chances, because that's only fair to you. And of course there is no fee unless there is a settlement or a judgment in favor of you, the plaintiff. Furthermore, because reporting a surgical error in a timely manner is critical for witness testimony and other evidence, a delay can cost you. So, you should contact us as soon as you can if you think you or a loved one has been the victim of surgical malpractice.

Local hospitals respect our firm, and they acknowledge that we are truly the best in the area. If a hospital or a doctor has harmed a patient, we are here to fight for you.

Our lead surgical error lawyers are Jon Perry and Neil Rosen. Both Neil and Jon have received numerous peer recognition awards including being named as Best Lawyers - Lawyers of the Year in medical malpractice for Pittsburgh. Both are Super Lawyers Top 100 Pennsylvania lawyers and both have received numerous multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements.

We really do care, and we are here for you.

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