Updated February 22, 2023

What Is Surgical Malpractice?

Surgery can be frightening for patients, even for simple procedures. While surgeons and other healthcare professionals have a great deal of specialized training in their field, human hands are prone to mistakes. Worse, the carelessness of some medical professionals can result in injury.

While all medical malpractice is a horrible experience for a patient, surgical malpractice often has extreme effects on the quality of a patient’s life moving forward.

What Is Considered Surgical Malpractice?

Regardless of whether a patient is injured in a physician’s office or an operating room, there is no case for medical malpractice until the patient can prove that they were treated with a substandard level of care. They have to argue whether any other competent medical professional would have performed in the same way under similar circumstances. A medical malpractice attorney will use all the resources available to make the strongest case possible, including the consultation of expert witnesses to determine whether your doctor failed to meet a commonly accepted standard of care to treat patients.

In surgery, the definition of medical malpractice doesn’t change much. Suing for surgical malpractice still involves the investigation of the negligent actions of surgical team members, including surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses, and other medical staff.

Not all surgical mistakes necessarily involve malpractice: All surgeries have the potential for risk, and no two procedures will go exactly the same way. Some surgeries have bad outcomes to no fault of the surgeon, which is why hospitals require patients to give informed consent before surgery.

When Does Surgical Malpractice Happen?

There are three common circumstances under which surgical malpractice occurs.

Preoperative Care

Surgical mistakes can occur during the planning stages, long before any incisions are made. These mistakes call into question whether a surgeon properly consulted with the patient. In the preoperative stage, a surgeon should identify the right patient, make sure their medical history is up to date, assess the risks of the procedure, and inform the patient of available alternatives and risks.

The surgeon isn’t the only responsible party in preoperative conditions. The anesthesiologist also has an opportunity to visit with the patient to confirm their identity and answer questions. Anesthesiologists are responsible for knowing how much anesthesia to give to a patient. Too much anesthetic can be fatal; too little can cause the patient to awaken prematurely.

Care During Surgery

The stakes are high for surgeons in the operating room: Every move must be made carefully to avoid potential errors.

The surgeon in the room must have the training and experience to safely perform. It sounds like common sense, but it’s possible for an ill-qualified surgeon to be performing an operation that they do not possess the skills or necessary level of experience to perform.

Surgical teams should use sterile tools, use them carefully and as they were intended, and make sure not to leave them inside of patients. Operators should, under all circumstances, be alert, attentive, and cautious during surgical procedures.

Post-Operative Care

A patient’s treatment doesn’t end once they’ve been wheeled out of the operating room. Post-operative care begins shortly after a patient’s operation, where the surgical team has to make sure that the patient experiences a safe recovery following their procedure and remains free of infections. Patients need to be kept under careful observation, and they shouldn’t be discharged any earlier than they need to be. Surgeons must also periodically follow up with their patients in order to discuss the surgery, next steps, and what the patient can do to stay healthy.

Contact a Medical Malpractice Attorney Today

Injuries sustained during a surgical procedure can change your life forever, leaving you with injuries and even long-term disabilities. To make things worse, when you’re injured during surgery, you’re up against not only your injuries but also the healthcare providers that should be held responsible.

If you or a loved one have been injured as a result of surgical malpractice, you are urged to contact the attorneys of Wilson Kehoe Winingham. An experienced Indianapolis medical malpractice lawyer at WKW can help you get the compensation you deserve. Call 317.920.6400 or fill out an online contact form for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

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