Attorney Explains the Risks Associated With Surgery

Written and edited by our team of expert legal content writers and reviewed and approved by Daniel Harwin

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Patients take on the risks of surgery before, during, and after even simple procedures. Sometimes, they experience complications ranging from mild to severe, and in the worst instances, those complications may result in death. In some cases, the negligence of surgeons or hospital staff causes or contributes to these complications.

Key Takeaways

  1. While complications can be a normal part of surgery, malpractice occurs when there is a breach in the standard of care by healthcare professionals, leading to avoidable complications.
  2. Some surgery complications are unavoidable and occur despite proper care, others are due to negligence.
  3. In such cases, patients can seek compensation through a civil lawsuit, and the law firm Freedland Harwin Valori Gander specializes in handling these surgical error medical malpractice cases.
  4. Common risks of surgery include anesthesia reactions, blood clots, prolonged recovery, infections, and potentially severe outcomes like nerve damage or death.

Surgical complications are common, and in many cases, they are normal outcomes of certain medical procedures. Sometimes, even the most severe surgery complications occur when doctors and hospital staff do their jobs properly. In other cases, though, the risks of surgery are heightened due to negligence by medical professionals.

When negligence leads to surgery complications, patients can seek compensation through a civil lawsuit. The Florida medical malpractice law firm Freedland Harwin Valori Gander has significant experience handling surgical error medical malpractice cases, and we are ready to help you and your family fight for damages.

What Risks Are Commonly Associated With Surgery?

Several surgery risks can lead to complications that result in extended hospital stays, prolonged recoveries, and other health problems. In the most severe cases, issues during or after surgery can lead to death. Common risks of surgery include the following: 

  • Anesthesia reactions, usually due to allergies
  • Blood clots and other bleeding issues such as deep vein thrombosis, venous thromboembolism, or hemorrhages
  • Recovery times that are longer than expected
  • Pulmonary complications that may include difficulty breathing, wheezing, chest pain, and coughing
  • Infections at the surgery site that could travel to other parts of the body
  • Urinary retention caused by the anesthetic
  • Injuries due to the surgeon’s negligence, such as leaving dangerous objects in the wrong place or conversing while performing the operation
  • Ineffective surgery that requires another procedure
  • Nerve damage 
  • Shock or a severe drop in blood pressure due to other surgery complications such as blood loss, infection, brain injuries, or metabolic problems

You can help reduce the risks of surgery by carefully vetting your doctor before your procedure. They must have the proper credentials and experience with the type of surgery you are undergoing. They should also have a long list of positive referrals. Previous surgical malpractice claims or a lack of board certification are signs to consider other doctors.

Question your prospective surgeon about your surgery and recovery process, including risks, outcomes, and potential anesthesia reactions. Watch for red flags such as poor communication or deficient bedside manners, pressure to make an immediate decision, and an unwillingness to discuss alternative treatments.

Surgical Risk Prediction

The overall risk of surgery depends on a combination of aspects, including the condition needing surgery, the patient’s health, the doctor’s experience, and system-related factors. These operative risks can determine if a patient has surgery at all. Failure to recognize cumulative surgical risks can lead to avoidable complications.

Doctors use several surgical risk prediction models. If, based on risks, a gallbladder removal could result in a 10 percent chance of death, some doctors would not perform the surgery. However, a 70 percent chance of death for a condition that is likely to be fatal without surgical intervention may be considered an acceptable risk.

The time between admission and surgery can also affect patient outcomes. In a study of patients needing hip fracture surgery, procedures within 48 hours of admission reduced surgery complications such as pressure ulcers, lung infections, and urinary tract infections.

Are Surgical Complications the Same as Malpractice?

Surgical complications and malpractice are not the same. Surgical complications are deviations from normal outcomes with a myriad of causes. Malpractice occurs when patients suffer harm because a health care professional fails to provide the standard of care a reasonable and prudent professional would under the same circumstances.

Common surgical complications such as bleeding, medication side effects, and infections are not serious and usually resolve without long-term consequences. These unexpected events may be unavoidable and do not reflect the standard of care the doctor or hospital provides.

Unlike surgical complications—a term defined by doctors and researchers—surgical malpractice is a legal term. Malpractice involves actions or inactions by doctors that lead to avoidable complications.

For example, numbness and tingling are often normal surgical complications. However, if a patient has prolonged numbness and tingling due to a doctor severing a nerve, they may have a case for surgical malpractice.

Florida’s medical malpractice statute emphasizes that the mere existence of a medical injury does not automatically lead to an inference or presumption of medical malpractice. There is an exception for foreign bodies left behind, such as sponges or surgical clamps. These do raise a presumption of negligence.

This breach could occur at any point in the pre-surgical, surgical, or post-surgical process. In some cases, doctors have no business performing surgeries at all. 

For instance, our medical malpractice attorneys are currently litigating claims against a former Florida orthopedic surgeon, his clinic, and Ascension St. Vincent’s Riverside Hospital, where he also practiced. 

The plaintiffs claim that the surgeon performed surgeries while suffering from a neurological condition, leading to serious, avoidable surgical complications. More than 500 plaintiffs have filed claims for surgical malpractice against the doctor and hospital.

Surgery Complications Versus Malpractice in Florida Pre-Suit Screening

Florida has a pre-screening process for medical malpractice claims intended to weed out frivolous lawsuits. Under Florida Statute 766.203, you must conduct a pre-suit investigation to establish your good faith belief that there was medical negligence. In most cases, you must include a written medical expert opinion corroborating your medical negligence claim when you notify the other party that you intend to file suit.

In essence, your medical expert must attest that you did not just experience a surgery complication. Instead, they should state that your doctor or hospital was negligent and did not provide an acceptable standard of care.

If a judge determines that your pre-suit investigation is insufficient, they can dismiss your case. Partner with an experienced FHVG surgical malpractice attorney as soon as possible after your injuries so we can start your pre-suit investigation using our network of medical experts.

It is our belief that medical malpractice cases should be handled by attorneys who have the necessary experience in this highly specialized field.

Why Trust an Attorney’s Opinion on Surgical Risks?

FHVG Attorney Daniel Harwin comes from a family of physicians. His father practiced medicine, as did his grandfather. From a young age, he learned what good medical practices look like and the standards of care that patients deserve. He also understands the importance of communication between healthcare providers, which he experienced daily as a child of a physician. 

Mr. Harwin started his law career representing doctors and hospitals, so he understands how they make decisions and approach lawsuits. His desire to hold doctors and hospitals to the medical standards he grew up with led him to switch to plaintiff’s work.

The rest of our Florida medical malpractice attorneys share the same core desire to help others and have received recognition from several organizations, including Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers in America, and South Florida Legal Guide. The lawyers at our firm have collected hundreds of millions of dollars on behalf of victims of surgical malpractice.  We regularly work with some of the very best surgical experts in the country in many fields, including orthopedic surgery, spinal surgery, cardiothoracic surgery,

We care about every client and treat them like family, and we understand that fair compensation helps them move on. FHVG has recovered over $2.6 billion in settlements and verdicts for our clients. Some of our notable results include: 

$2.6 million settlement over a surgeon’s failure to properly read a preoperative EKG, leading to an improper surgery clearance and myocardial infarction

$1.85 million settlement after a hospital allowed an improperly credentialed surgeon to operate, leading to a severe injury

$1.25 million settlement over a doctor’s failure to diagnose and timely treat an infection following knee surgery

Speak With the Experienced Medical Malpractice Attorneys at FHVG

We are dedicated to taking on deep-pocketed doctors, hospitals, and their insurance companies on behalf of people like you and your family. Our medical malpractice attorneys in Fort Lauderdale and Coral Gables bring a wealth of expertise to advocate for your rights.

Call FHVG today at (954) 467-6400 or complete our online form for a free consultation anytime, anywhere.

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