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Philadelphia Med Mal & Birth Injury Lawyer / Blog / Medical Malpractice / What Happens if a Surgeon Makes a Mistake

What Happens if a Surgeon Makes a Mistake


If a surgeon makes a mistake and the patient is injured, the surgeon may be liable for the patient’s damages due to medical malpractice. This article covers what happens if a surgeon makes a mistake and what patients can do if they suffered harm as a result.

Medical malpractice is difficult to prove, and many times complications or side effects arise after surgery that are not the surgeon’s fault. You need an experienced medical malpractice attorney to assess your case and help you get the compensation you deserve.

Call Heidi G. Villari at 215-372-8889 to discuss your case with her, free of charge. With over 20 years of experience helping victims of medical malpractice in the Philadelphia area and South jersey, Ms. Villari has the knowledge, skill, and determination you need to hold negligent surgeons responsible for your injuries. Trust her to get the job done.

Medical Malpractice Explained

A medical practitioner is liable for medical malpractice if they breach their duty of care to their patient, injuring them and causing them damages.

Surgical Mistakes Defined

Not every surgical error is medical malpractice. In order for a surgical mistake to rise to the level of medical malpractice, the surgeon must have failed to follow the appropriate standard of care by negligent, improper, or illegal activity, and that failure must be the cause of the harm to the patient.

Everyone involved in a surgical procedure must adhere to the appropriate standard of care. This includes surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses, medical assistants, and the hospital itself.

Common Surgical Mistakes

  • Surgical errors such as causing further injury or failing to complete the operation fully
  • Items left in the bodily cavity
  • Operating on incorrect site (for example, left arm instead of right)
  • Performing the incorrect procedure
  • Disregarding or misreading vital signs
  • Mismanaging anesthesia
  • Delayed diagnosis
  • Missed diagnosis
  • The wrong diagnosis

How Surgical Mistakes Happen

Surgeons are notoriously overworked. If they are tired or otherwise inattentive, mistakes can happen. Also, if a surgeon has relatively little experience performing a particular procedure, problems may occur that the surgeon does not know how to handle.

Last, if the patient is not prepped property in that the site of the procedure and the procedure itself are not clearly spelled out on the patient’s chart and on the patient themselves, the surgeon may perform the wrong procedure or the correct procedure on the wrong body part.

What is Not Considered Medical Malpractice

Problems that arise from the known risks of a procedure are not considered medical malpractice.

For example, if a surgeon fuses a disc in someone’s cervical spine and that person is not wholly relieved of pain associated with pressure on nerves, that is not medical malpractice. If the surgeon fused the wrong discs or caused further nerve damage during the procedure, that may be medical malpractice.

Similarly, if wisdom teeth are extracted and the nearby sinus is affected, prolonging the recovery period and causing discomfort for the patient, that is not medical malpractice. If cancerous tissue is being excised and a patient is cleared of cancer having had the necessary post-op therapies, yet the cancer returns and the patient dies sooner than expected, that is not medical malpractice.

If a surgeon is brusque or dismissive of a patient’s claims and fails to diagnose or delays diagnosis of a problem, that may rise to medical malpractice if the patient is injured or their condition worsens as a result. However, having a disagreeable personality is not malpractice.

Malpractice vs Complication

A “complication” following surgery is an unexpected disease or symptom that occurs relative to the surgery, such as infection, hemorrhage, hematoma, and side effects from anesthesia or medication. A “side effect” or “after effect” is an undesirable condition that occurs in addition to the intended outcome of surgery. “Sequelae” are symptoms that remain after surgery. While these can all be considered medical accidents, they may not rise to the level of medical malpractice.

It is common for medical professionals and hospitals who are being sued for medical malpractice to downplay the surgeon’s role and argue that a patient’s injury or condition was simply a foreseeable and unfortunate complication or side effect of surgery, not due to a medical mistake or negligence. This is why you need an experienced medical malpractice attorney and their team of medical and forensic experts to fight back and prove your case.

Four Steps to Take if You’ve Been a Victim of Medical Malpractice

1. Seek Medical Attention

Your surgeon should have prepared you for any possible side effects or lasting effects following surgery, and approximately how long the recovery process should take.

If armed with this knowledge you believe something unusual happened during your surgery, contact seek medical attention immediately. Often side effects can be managed during the recovery process, but if there is internal bleeding or an infection you must get medical attention right away.

If it is immediately apparent that the surgeon made an error, such as in the case of the wrong procedure, operating on the wrong site, or catastrophic injury or patient death, skip this step.

2. Hire an Experienced Medical Malpractice Attorney

If you believe you’ve been injured due to a surgeon’s negligence, contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney as soon as you can. Your attorney will advise you as to how to get a complete and accurate assessment of your condition, what treatment that condition will require going forward, and how that condition will affect your life presently and in the future.

3.Proving Malpractice Occurred


Your attorney will partner with medical experts to define the applicable standard of care and show how your surgeon or other medical professional deviated from it.


Your attorney and the medical experts on their team will show how the surgeon’s deviation from the standard of care caused your injury and your damages.


You will also require the help of medical experts to assess your damages, both economic, such as medical expenses and lost income, and noneconomic, such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, and loss of consortium.

In the case of a wrongful death claim, your attorney and their team of experts will calculate damages in the form of your loved one’s medical expenses and suffering prior to death, as well as your family’s loss of your loved one’s income and companionship.

4. Filing a Malpractice Claim

Your medical malpractice attorney will contact the negligent party’s attorney and insurance company with their evidence of your surgeon’s negligence. If they will not settle the matter to your satisfaction, your medical malpractice attorney should be prepared to vigorously litigate on your behalf.

Contact The Villari Firm for a Free Consultation on Your Case

You need a medical malpractice attorney with the experience and grit to get you the compensation you deserve. Your job is to rest and recover. Let Heidi G. Villari handle your case and rest assured that she has the skill and grit to fight for you.

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