What Causes Surgical Errors?

When you arrive at the hospital for a surgical appointment, you rightfully expect the medical staff, hospital, and surgeon to take every possible precaution to ensure your safety. While all surgeries, no matter how routine, are inherently risky, surgeons are supposed to be capable of performing procedures without making avoidable mistakes, like those caused by incompetence or intoxication. Sadly, while most surgeries are error-free, an estimated 4,000 surgical mistakes take place every year in the United States alone, making them a primary cause of preventable hospital injuries and fatalities and ensuing medical malpractice claims. If you have been the victim of a surgical error, you could be eligible to collect compensation for your injuries and other related damages. The experienced Virginia Beach medical malpractice attorneys at Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp have witnessed first-hand the impacts that surgical errors can have on a victim’s life and have the resources and the skills to fight for the financial compensation you deserve.

What Are Surgical Errors?

When patients sign consent forms, they are indicating they are aware of the possible risks involved in undergoing surgery. These accepted risks do not include those associated with a deviation from the accepted standard of medical care. A surgical error is a mistake that occurs during a surgical procedure caused by a medical professional’s failure to adhere to appropriate medical or surgical protocols. Surgical errors do not necessarily make your immediate condition worse or be immediately obvious. They are most commonly caused by miscommunication and improper training.  

How Do Surgical Errors Happen?

Surgical errors can happen for many different reasons, but the most common are preventable behaviors. Although the circumstances surrounding surgical errors are unique to each case, some of the most common causes of surgical errors are:

Alcohol or Drug Impairment

All surgeries require precise and complex movements. When a surgeon or other healthcare professional attempts to operate on a patient while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they are not upholding the medical standard of care and risk causing serious injuries. If you suspect that the surgeon who performed your operation was under the influence, reach out to a Virginia Beach medical malpractice attorney right away.  

Lack of Communication 

Surgeons and their supporting staff must be able to communicate effectively with one another. A lack of open and clear communication among members of the surgical team could produce devastating consequences. For instance, a lack of clear communication could cause the surgeon to mark an incorrect site for surgery or perform an operation on the incorrect patient entirely.


Doctors, nurses, surgeons, and other healthcare workers frequently work exhausting hours. When these hours start to impact their ability to do their job properly, avoidable surgical errors can and do happen. Research has even shown that the physical and mental impairments exhibited by a fatigued individual are very similar to those exhibited by someone under the influence. 

Lack of Experience/Incompetence

When a surgeon has not been properly trained or does not have prior experience with the specific surgery they are about to perform, they are putting their patient in danger. Inadequate supervision is also a common contributing factor to surgical errors.  

Improper Planning

Surgeons and their teams need to consider all possible factors before they begin any surgical procedure. When surgical teams fail to take every possible safety precaution, they are at risk of committing severe but preventable surgical mistakes.

Using Incorrect Equipment

Whether it results from miscommunication or improper training, using the wrong tools can lead to incisions that are larger than necessary, increase the risk of a serious infection, and cause permanent nerve damage or scarring. Using surgical equipment that is defective, damaged, or broken can also lead to additional injuries and serious medical complications which can be devastating for the patient.

Do You Have Questions About Surgical Errors?

Despite the complicated and intense nature of surgery, no one should have to endure additional injuries due to surgical negligence. If you experienced an avoidable medical complication as a result of a surgical error, an experienced Virginia Beach medical malpractice attorney from Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp can help. We can review your potential claim for medical negligence and determine if you are owed compensation. like the $1.6 million jury verdict we won for a client after she experienced a seizure and traumatic brain injury due to medical negligence. 

If you sustained injuries or lost a loved one due to an avoidable surgical error, schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys by calling (833) 997-1774 or filling out the contact form on our website. Our offices are located in Virginia Beach, Portsmouth, Norfolk, and Hampton.