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Surgical Errors

Lancaster PA Surgical Error Attorney

Every time a person must have surgery there are risks of medical malpractice. Medical Malpractice claims frequently arise from surgical errors, some of which happen before surgery and others which occur during the surgical procedure itself.

Personal injury cases could be a consequence of numerous circumstances that may arise while on the operating room table that could lead to a faulty or flawed surgical performance. Most errors are known as “wrong site” operations, meaning that the operation took place in the wrong organ or limb, on the wrong side of the body or the wrong procedure on the correct body part. Below are examples of other types of errors that can occur on an operating table:

  • Use of unsanitary surgical instruments
  • Incorrect incision
  • Organ puncture or perforation
  • Concurrent surgeries
  • Delayed surgery
  • Prolonged surgery

Other errors can occur as far back as the pre-operative stage of the surgery when a doctor examines the patient and determines that surgery is the most appropriate course of action. Conversely, some surgical procedures may be unnecessary. A study conducted in the late 1980s found that as many as 30 percent of controversial surgeries were not necessary.

Plastic or cosmetic surgery is another area where surgical errors are common. In these cases, the surgery may not only fail to produce the desired cosmetic results, but the surgical errors may leave the patient with serious, permanent physical ailments from which they did not suffer before the surgery. Silicone breast implants are perhaps the most publicized cases in point, though there are many other examples of surgical errors arising from cosmetic surgery.

Health Care-Acquired Infections

A health care-acquired infection (HAI) is an infection a person gets while being treated for a medical condition. HAIs may occur in patients who are treated at a medical facility or in their homes. An infection is considered to be an HAI when it occurs after treatment begins. HAIs are often discovered within 48 hours of admission to a health care facility, but other infections may also be considered HAIs.

In the United States, 1 out of 20 hospitalized patients contract HAIs. These complications of care lead to extra time in the hospital and longer recovery times.

The three most common types of HAIs are:

  • Catheter-related bloodstream infections: Catheter-related bloodstream infections, or CRBSIs, are among the most common infections in patients who are admitted to critical care units. These infections occur when bacteria and other germs travel down a “central line” and enter the bloodstream.
  • Hospital-acquired pneumonia: Hospital-acquired pneumonia (HAP) is an infection of the lungs that occurs 48 hours or longer after admission to a hospital. This pneumonia tends to be more serious because patients in the hospital are often sicker and unable to fight off germs than otherwise healthy people. Hospital-acquired pneumonia occurs more often in patients who are using a respirator (machine) to help them breathe. Ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP) falls into the HAP category. It may occur in patients who need a tube to breathe.
  • Surgical site infections (SSI): A surgical site infection is an infection that occurs after surgery in the part of the body where the surgery took place. Surgical site infections sometimes only involve the skin. Others are more serious and can involve tissues under the skin, organs, or implanted material (such as knee or hip replacements).


Falls are a common cause of injury, both within and outside of healthcare settings. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of adults over 65 fall each year. Injuries that result from falls can include bone fractures, excessive bleeding, or even death. Researchers estimate that more than 500,000 falls happen each year in U.S. hospitals, resulting in 150,000 injuries. Patients may be at increased risk of falls if:

  • They have an impaired memory
  • They have muscle weakness
  • They are older than 60
  • They use a cane or walker to help them walk

Medications may also play a role in increasing a person’s risk for a fall. Studies have also shown that elderly patients taking four or more prescription medications are at three time’s greater risk for falls than are other patients. Hospitals and other health care organizations take steps to prevent falls among their patients. You can help prevent falls by asking your doctor or nurse about your risk and taking steps to reduce your chance of a fall.


A readmission is when a patient needs to return to the hospital less than 30 days after being discharged. Many factors may lead to hospital readmissions, such as poor quality care or a gap in the transition between different providers and care settings. Readmissions may also occur if patients are discharged from hospitals prematurely, or if they are discharged to inappropriate settings, or if they do not receive adequate information or resources to aid in recovery.

Patients can help avoid readmission by making sure they understand their care plan before they are discharged from the hospital. They also need to be sure to follow up on care once they leave the hospital.

Diagnostic Errors

Diagnostic errors mean a diagnosis that was either “wrong, missed, or unintentionally delayed.” No-fault errors may happen when there are masked or unusual symptoms of a disease, or when a patient has not fully cooperated in care. Diagnostic errors may also result from system-related problems, such as equipment failure or flaws in communication. A wrong diagnosis may also occur when the clinician relies too much on common symptoms, and choosing an obvious answer, without looking further into what may be causing them.

Personal injury cases due to surgical errors are often very complicated and should be handled by an experienced legal team. There is some amount of risk in all surgeries; however, this risk should not be exacerbated by negligent mistakes that could have been prevented. If you suspect you or someone you love has been harmed by a surgical error, please contact a Pennsylvania surgical errors attorney at Haggerty Silverman & Justice for a free consultation. To determine whether or not you have a surgical error case please contact us online or by phone at 717-397-3200.

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