Your Guide to Surgical Malpractice

Surgeons operating on a patient, holding a sponge.

Any surgery has certain risks, but these risks should not come from medical error or negligence. If you or a loved one is preparing to undergo a surgical procedure, knowing what can and typically does go wrong will help you make informed decisions regarding your health and well-being.

Related Reading: What is Medical Malpractice?

Surgical Malpractice Trends

According to Coverys’ report, Surgery Risks: Through the Lens of Malpractice Claims, surgery is the second most common cause of medical malpractice claims overall, with the top cause being diagnostic-related claims. Using data from Coverys’ report, we have compiled the statistics you should know:

Surgical Specialities with the Highest Allegation Rates

Almost half of all surgical claims come from General Surgery, Orthopedic Surgery, and Neurosurgery:

  • General Surgery - 22%
  • Orthopedic Surgery - 17%
  • Neurosurgery - 8%

Top 5 Surgical Allegations Across All Specialties

The five top allegations are as follows:

  1. Performance Issues - 78%
  2. Retained Object - 7.1%
  3. Unnecessary Surgeries - 3.5%
  4. Wrong Side/Site/Patient - 3.4%
  5. Delay in Surgery - 2.7%

The Surgical Timeline

The surgical timeline of a patient can be broken up into the four following components:

1. Preoperative

Preoperative: Before the surgery.

14% of surgical allegations occur during preoperative care.

2. Intraoperative

Intraoperative: During the surgery.

44% of surgical allegations occur during intraoperative care.

3. Postoperative

Postoperative: After the surgery.

18% of surgical allegations occur during postoperative care.

4. Perioperative

Perioperative: From pre- to postoperative, over the course of the patient’s entire surgical timeline.

24% of surgical allegations occur during perioperative care.

Patients Most At-Risk for Surgical Malpractice

The following characteristics, conditions, and groups of individuals are considered the most at-risk for surgical malpractice:

  • Individuals with impaired cognition. For example, someone with memory issues or special cognitive needs.
  • Individuals with impaired communication skills. For example, someone with a hearing impairment or language barrier.
  • Individuals with common comorbidities. For example, obesity, diabetes, clotting disorders, bleeding disorders, or cardiovascular conditions.
  • Individuals that may require additional support to adhere to pre-surgical and post-surgical instructions. For example, elderly or disabled individuals.

What Causes Surgical Malpractice?

Surgical allegations most frequently cited the following as causes for medical malpractice:

  • Technical Skill - 39%
  • Clinical Judgment - 17%
  • Communication - 10%
  • Behavior - 9%
  • Documentation - 7%
  • Administrative - 6%
  • Clinical Systems - 5%

Related Reading: Your Guide to Medical Malpractice

Medical Malpractice Attorneys

If you or a loved one suffered a health complication during or after surgery, you might have grounds for a surgical error lawsuit. Hiring an experienced medical malpractice attorney is crucial to ensure that your rights are protected and that you obtain the compensation you deserve.

At Curtis & Co., we only accept cases we truly believe we can win to limit our caseload. By doing so, we are able to provide every client with the personal attention, care, and support they need.

For a free consultation with one of our New Mexico medical malpractice attorneys, call (505) 871-3740 or reach us online using our secure contact form.

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