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8 Common Types of Surgical Malpractice

May 11, 2017

Surgical malpractice is still a risk: Don’t let modern technology fool you.

While “laser surgery” implies precision and “outpatient surgery” sounds easy, surgical malpractice hasn’t gone away. Surgeons still make mistakes: sometimes, deadly mistakes.

A Johns Hopkins study showed that medical mistakes, ranging from medication errors to surgical complications, are now the number three cause of U.S. deaths, ranking just behind heart disease and cancer. According to the study, an estimated 250,000 Americans die each year from medical errors, including surgical errors.

Medical Malpractice: Payments Going Up

Surgical errors, after errors in diagnosis, are the second most common type of medical malpractice allegation, according to a study by the Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

The study, which analyzed malpractice claims from 1992-2014, found that malpractice payments had risen by more than 23%. During the same period, the percentage of payments above $1 million also went up.

So which specialty had the highest malpractice payments? Neurosurgery.

For low-severity claims, with minor bodily or psychological harm, plastic surgery, along with dermatology, had the greatest percentage of malpractice claims.

Surgery alone is risky, but those risks go up when your surgeon commits malpractice. Surgical malpractice should never happen, but it does happen. Here are eight types of malpractice that often happen during surgery:

  • Foreign Object Retention: This occurs when a surgeon leaves a foreign object in a patient postoperatively.
  • Wrong Patient, Wrong Site or Wrong Procedure: A surgeon commits malpractice when he or she performs surgery on the wrong body part, performs the incorrect procedure, or performs a surgical procedure intended for a different patient.
  • Patient Falls: Leaving a surgery patient unattended can result in a fall and the patient’s injury. A patient can also fall during his or her transference from the bed to the operating room table.
  • Positioning Errors: When, during surgery, improper positioning results in a bodily injury.
  • Sterilization Failures: Infection, during or after a surgical procedure, can give rise to a malpractice claim if the infection is caused by improper sterilization.
  • Specimen Errors: These errors occur when a diagnostic specimen is lost or mislabeled.
  • Medication Errors: These errors occur when a patient receives the wrong medication or the wrong dosage.
  • Post-Surgery Infections: A post-operative infection, if misdiagnosed or negligently left untreated, can give rise to a malpractice claim.


Are you or a loved one the victim of surgical malpractice? If so, call us at 412-471-4300, or email us. Berger Lagnese & Paul, LLC has an experienced team of lawyers and doctors that specializes in medical malpractice. We help residents in Pittsburgh, Greensburg, Beaver, Erie, Uniontown, Washington and throughout Western Pennsylvania.

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