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Medical negligence » Surgical errors


Thousands of lives are saved every year through planned operations carried out by surgeons in the UK, whilst many more people undergo surgery after being brought in to the Accident and Emergency Department.

New ways of performing surgery, such as keyhole surgery, have been developed and continue to be developed in order to minimise discomfort and after effects of the operation. As a result, the UK has some of the most advanced medical equipment and best trained surgeons in the world.

Unfortunately, there are risks within surgery and even the slightest error by the surgeon can result in additional pain for the patient, sometimes leading to permanent personal injury or death. It is not known how many people suffer the effects of medical negligence in surgery, although it is estimated that there are around 850,000 medical accidents in hospitals and other places of medicine each year.

Medical negligence is known to be more common in some procedures than others, including:

  • hysterectomy procedures
  • cosmetic surgery
  • failed sterilisation
  • laser eye surgery

Types of medical negligence in surgery

One type of surgical medical negligence is that of leaving foreign bodies inside a patient. Although this is not an overly frequent occurrence, happening to around 1 in 10,000 patients, it is one that can cause serious personal injury.

Surgical sponges, scissors and swabs are just some of the types of medical equipment that have been left inside patients following an operation. Nearly all of these cases are seen to be clinical negligence because if a count of medical equipment before and after surgery is properly carried out, these accidents should never occur.

However, the number of these cases may well fall in the coming years as tagging equipment is developed that can identify any medical items left in a patient.

One of the most devastating types of medical negligence in surgery is when the wrong body part is operated upon. Although these cases are extremely rare, they do happen. Poorly expressed or incorrect notes are sometimes the cause, whilst other times the patients notes will have been misinterpreted by the surgeon.

The most grave of these cases is when the incorrect limb is amputated or the wrong organ is removed. In these situations, the patient will nearly always suffer life-long effects of the mistake made by the surgeon and substantial medical negligence compensation is due.

Keyhole surgery

Keyhole surgery has been hailed as one of the best advances for patients. However, although it is true that this type of surgery has revolutionised some procedures in terms of recovery time and residual scarring, it does not come without its risks.

For many years surgeons have used the feel of the patients body to identify the areas that need to be examined and operated upon. However, the introduction of keyhole surgery means that procedures must be carried out by watching an image on a screen rather than seeing the body directly. In some instances this can make it more difficult for surgeons to be as accurate as they need to be and medical accidents can happen.

A study that was carried out by Australian researchers in 2002 found that damage to the bile duct during gall bladder surgery is more common and typically more serious when carried out by keyhole surgery than open surgery. They found that this damage would occur in three to four patients per thousand operated upon.

This rate of incidence had been put down to surgeons becoming accustomed to using the keyhole surgery procedure. However, the study showed that there were the same number of patients with bile duct damage years after keyhole surgery was first introduced.

Anaesthetic awareness

When a general anaesthetic is administered, the patient is expected to be unaware of all aspects of the operation that is being carried out on them. Unfortunately, this does not happen in around 1% of operations and the patient can be left in a state in which they cannot move but are able to feel pain.

The reasons for anaesthetic awareness are varied, although the vast majority are thought to be due to a faulty administering technique. Around a fifth of anaesthetic awareness occurrences happen because equipment is not checked, whilst a small percentage occur through faulty equipment.

People who experience anaesthetic awareness usually experience extreme pain and are left psychologically traumatised. Many go on to suffer from anxiety or depression and are left terrified of hospitals or medical procedures.

Making a medical negligence claim after a surgical error

If you have experienced the effects of a surgical error, you may be able to claim medical negligence compensation. Many people find that the compensation they receive can help them to move on after a difficult time, as well as giving them the freedom to purchase any specialist equipment that they may require.

Our panel of personal injury solicitors specialise in this area of law and have in-depth knowledge of medical negligence cases. They are able to provide the best possible representation and have helped many people to make successful clinical negligence compensation claims.

We know how distressing an experience of medical negligence can be and many of our customers are recovering from a traumatic event when they come to us. We understand that you may feel as if taking legal action is a daunting prospect but we will never pressure or coerce you into making any decisions.

If you wish to find out more about claiming medical negligence compensation, talk to us today by simply calling 01582 437070 or complete our online claim form.