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Surgical Complications. Buchanan & Buchanan.

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Surgical Complications

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Patients undergo surgery to improve or fix a medical condition. When a surgeon errs during an operation, it is a surgical error. Common surgical errors include:

  • Doing surgery on the wrong part of the body
  • Cutting a blood vessel or organ that shouldn’t have been cut
  • Turning off or ignoring a warning alarm of the machine monitoring patient vital signs (e.g., heartbeat, blood pressure, blood-oxygen level, breathing rate)
  • A surgery that is unnecessary
  • Using surgery tools poorly or incorrectly
  • Delaying a surgery for too long
  • A reckless decision made under pressure
  • Leaving a surgical instrument or item inside the body
  • Performing the wrong procedure
  • Doing the surgery incorrectly

Below is a list of common procedures and complications that can occur.  Contact the legal-medical team at Buchanan & Buchanan to evaluate if your complication was caused by medical malpractice.  We have decades of experience handling medical malpractice cases, including surgery complications.


  • Bleeding
  • Nasal speech
  • Nasal regurgitation of food or liquids


  • Abnormal reaction to drugs
  • Injury to vocal cords or throat
  • Injury to teeth, lips, or tongue
  • Brain damage
  • Malignant hyperthermia

ANGIOGRAPHY, CEREBRAL (Picture of brain blood vessels)

  • Injury to arteries
  • Bleeding at the site of entry
  • Stroke
  • Blindness or brain damage
  • Emboli to the brain
  • Allergic reaction to the injected contrast fluid

ANGIOGRAPHY, CORONARY (Picture of heart blood vessels)

  • Injury to the artery
  • Damage to heart
  • Heart attack
  • Need for open heart surgery
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Bleeding at the site of entrance
  • Allergic reaction to injected contrast fluid

ANGIOPLASTY (Unblocking blood vessels)

  • Paraplegia
  • Loss of extremity
  • Bowel infarction
  • Renal failure

AORTIC DISSECTION (Tearing of blood vessel wall)

  • Stroke
  • Renal failure
  • Bowel infarction
  • Paraplegia
  • Death

AORTIC GRAFT (Repair of aorta)

  • Bleeding or infection
  • Infection or emboli
  • Kidney failure or loss of limb
  • Inadequate blood to bowel or spinal cord
  • Myocardial infarction
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Death

APPENDECTOMY (Removing appendix)

  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Infected fluid and pus in abdomen
  • Leakage from the colon requiring colostomy
  • Hernia in the incision

ARTERIOVENOUS SHUNT FOR HEMODIALYSIS (Connection of passageway between an artery and a vein)

  • Bleeding or infection
  • Damage to blood vessel with risk of rupture
  • Recurrent thrombosis
  • Severe edema of extremity
  • Inadequate blood supply to extremity
  • Inadequate blood supply to nerves

Birth of Child

  • Injury to bladder
  • Injury to rectum
  • Fistula between vagina and rectum
  • Bleeding requiring hysterectomy
  • Brain damage to the baby

Biopsy, Needle (Procedure to identify cause of lump or mass)

  • Infection
  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Bleeding

Blood Transfusion

  • Fever
  • Kidney failure
  • Heart failure
  • Hepatitis
  • AIDS

BREAST BIOPSY, EXCISIONAL (Removal of the abnormal area)

  • Infection and/or blood clot
  • Failure to obtain accurate diagnosis
  • Disfiguring scar
  • Failure to locate and remove abnormality

CARDIOPULMONARY BYPASS (Technique that temporarily takes over function of heart and lungs)

  • Stroke
  • Respiratory complications
  • Kidney failure
  • Death

CAROTID ENDARTERECTOMY (Removing inner lining of carotid artery)

  • Blood clots
  • Infection
  • Stroke
  • Nerve injury causing mouth, throat, or tongue problems
  • Myocardial infarction
  • Death

CATARACT SURGERY (Removing lens of eye)

  • Loss of vision or decrease in vision
  • Loss of eye
  • Bleeding inside or behind eye
  • Painful eye
  • Droopy eyelid

CATHETERIZATION, CENTRAL VENOUS (Inserting a tube to give medicine or for dialysis)

  • Hemorrhage into chest cavity or elsewhere
  • Pericardial tamponade (compression of heart)
  • Cardiac arrest or stroke
  • Collapse of lung
  • Damage to blood vessels
  • Infusion of fluid into chest cavity


  • Uncontrollable leakage of urine
  • Injury to the bladder
  • Injury to the bowel or intestinal obstruction
  • Injury to the urethra
  • Sterility
  • Pulmonary embolism

CHOLECYSTECTOMY (Gallbladder removal)

  • Pancreatitis
  • Injury to the bile duct
  • Retained stones in the bile duct
  • Narrowing of the bile duct
  • Injury to the bowel

COARCTATION OF AORTA (Section of aorta narrowed to abnormal width)

  • Quadriplegia or paraplegia
  • Permanent hoarseness
  • Leakage of body fluid from intestines into chest
  • Loss of bowel and/or bladder function
  • Impotence in males


  • Infection of the incision
  • Intra-abdominal abscess
  • Leakage from colon and possible colostomy
  • Injury to other organs or blood vessels
  • Diarrhea, sometimes permanent
  • Formation of scar tissue causing intestinal blockage


  • Infection or bleeding
  • Perforation of colon or rectal wall
  • Cardiac arrhythmias

DIALYSIS (Removing waste from blood)

  • Infection
  • Blood clot
  • Trapped air in dialysis tube
  • Cardiovascular disease

DILATION AND CURETTAGE (Removing tissue from inside uterus)

  • Hemorrhage with possible hysterectomy
  • Perforation of the uterus
  • Injury to the bowel or bladder
  • Sterility


  • Persistent infection
  • Puncture of eardrum or cyst behind the eardrum
  • Need to surgically remove tubes

ENDOSCOPIC RETROGRADE CHOLANGIOPANCREATOGRAM (Used to diagnose problems of biliary or pancreatic ductal systems)

  • Infection
  • Puncture of esophagus, stomach, or intestines
  • Cardiac arrhythmias
  • Pancreatic inflammation

ENDOSCOPY, ABDOMINAL (Looking in the stomach with a scope)

  • Puncture of the bowel or blood vessel
  • Abdominal infection
  • Operation to correct injury
  • Injury to urethra
  • Injury to bladder

EPIDURAL, SPINAL (Pain medication injection into spinal sac)

  • Abnormal reaction to drugs
  • Leakage of cerebrospinal fluid
  • Epidural blood clot or abscess
  • Broken needles or catheters
  • Incomplete analgesia
  • Back pain and/or paralysis
  • Severe headaches

FEMORAL BYPASS GRAFTS (Re-routing blood vessel in the leg to restore circulation)

  • Bleeding requiring re-operation
  • Necrosis of skin around incision
  • Thrombi or emboli
  • Limb loss
  • Nerve damage
  • Heart attack
  • Death

FIBROID REMOVAL (Removing growth in uterus)

  • Uncontrollable leakage of urine
  • Injury to bladder
  • Injury to the urethra
  • Injury to the bowel and/or intestinal obstruction
  • Sterility
  • Pulmonary embolism

GASTRECTOMY OR PHLOROPLASTY (Removing all or part of the stomach)

  • Infection of incision or inside abdomen
  • Bleeding requiring transfusion
  • Leakage from stomach
  • Inability to maintain weight
  • Chronic vomiting after eating
  • Diarrhea and need for vitamin B-12 injections

HEMODIALYSIS (Filtering blood when kidneys fail)

  • Hypotension, hemorrhage, sepsis, cardiac arrhythmias
  • Allergic reaction to tubing and dialyzer
  • Pulmonary edema
  • Air bubbles in the bloodstream
  • Seizure, hypothermia, fever
  • Viral infections such as HIV

HEMORRHOIDECTOMY (Removing hemorrhoids)

  • Bleeding
  • Post operative pain, especially with bowel movements
  • Temporary/permanent difficulty controlling bowels or gas
  • Recurrence of hemorrhoids

HERNIA REPAIR (Fixing a tear or bulge in stomach wall)

  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Recurrence of hernia
  • Injury to or loss of testicle or spermatic cords
  • Nerve injury resulting in numbness or chronic pain

KIDNEY STONE LITHOTRIPSY (Removing kidney stones)

  • Bleeding in or around kidney
  • Obstruction of kidney by stone particles
  • Failure to completely fragment stones
  • High blood pressure
  • Loss of kidney

LIVER BIOPSY (Taking a sample of liver for testing)

  • Bleeding
  • Lung collapse
  • Internal leakage of bile
  • Puncture of other organs

Lumpectomy (Removing a lump)

  • Infection or blood clot
  • Disfiguring scar
  • Fluid collection in arm pit
  • Numbness to arm
  • Swelling of arm
  • Damage to nerves of arm or chest
  • Recurrence of cancer

Oral Surgery

  • Infection, bleeding, failure to heal
  • Injury to adjacent teeth
  • Numbness of face and/or mouth
  • Fracture of either jaw
  • Opening between mouth and sinus or nose
  • Tooth fragment in sinus
  • Dry socket

Orthopedic Surgery (Back surgery)

  • Infection, bleeding, failure to heal
  • Blood clot
  • Nerve damage
  • Lack of full range of motion
  • Scar formation
  • Injury to joint or soft tissue

Penile Implant (Inserting devise to simulate erection)

  • Bleeding and infection
  • Penile pain or numbness
  • Injury to bladder or urethra
  • Problems with implantable prosthetic

Prostatectomy (Removing the prostate)

  • Bleeding and/or infection
  • Injury to bladder, urethra, or rectum
  • Impotence
  • Retrograde ejaculation
  • Bladder blockage
  • Incontinence

Radial Keratotomy (Procedure to decrease nearsightedness)

  • Loss of vision or decrease in vision
  • Loss of eye
  • Variable vision
  • Radiating images around lights
  • Over or under correction
  • Cataract formation
  • Retained need for glasses

Radiation Therapy, Head/neck – Initial Reaction (Cancer treatment by radiation)

  • Altered sense of smell, taste, or nausea
  • Difficulty swallowing, weight loss, fatigue
  • Hoarseness, cough, loss of voice
  • Hearing loss, dizziness
  • Dry and irritable eyes
  • Increased risk of infection and/or bleeding
  • Intensified by chemotherapy

Radiation Therapy, head/neck – Late Reaction (Cancer treatment)

  • Tooth decay and gum changes
  • Bone damage in jaws
  • Hair loss, scarring of skin
  • Swelling of tissues under chin
  • Brain, spinal cord or nerve damage
  • Pituitary or thyroid gland damage
  • Second cancers developing

Radiation Therapy, Thorax – Initial Reaction (Cancer treatment)

  • Skin changes, hair loss on the chest
  • Inflammation of the esophagus, heart sac, or lungs
  • Bleeding or fistula from tumor destruction
  • Intermittent electric shock-like feeling in the lower body
  • Increased risk of infection or bleeding
  • Intensified by chemotherapy

Radiation Therapy, Thorax – Late Reaction (Cancer treatment)

  • Changes in skin texture, scarring, hair loss
  • Lung scarring or shrinkage
  • Narrowing of esophagus
  • Constriction of heart sac
  • Damage to heart muscle or arteries
  • Fracture of ribs
  • Spinal cord or liver damage

Radical Mastectomy (Removal of breast)

  • Limitation of shoulder or arm movement
  • Swelling of the arm
  • Loss of the skin of the chest
  • Failure to completely eradicate the malignancy
  • Decreased sensation or numbness
  • Injury to major blood vessels

Renal Biopsy (Removing small piece of kidney for testing)

  • Injury to adjacent organs
  • Infection
  • Hypotension
  • Bleeding from the kidney
  • Intestinal perforation


Birth injury occurs during the birthing process and can damage nerves, break bones, or injure the brain.
Cerebral palsy is a permanent movement disorder that can be caused by injury to a child's brain during the birthing process.
Complications after surgery can be from a surgeon's negligent conduct in surgery.
A missed diagnosis often means a delay in proper treatment, often with devastating consequences, for example, medical cancer cases.
When a healthcare provider, in acting or failing to act, does not comply with the standard of practice in medicine.
Many medical malpractice claims occur because of procedures or treatment given to patients in hospitals.
A doctor must in advance adequately inform a patient of diagnosis, nature and purpose of treatment, and benefits and risks of procedures.
Doctors and healthcare providers are not automatically required to treat or provide care to everyone they meet.
Buchanan & Buchanan, P.L.C.
171 Monroe Ave. N.W. Suite 750
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
voice: (616) 458.2464
toll free: 1-800-272-4080
fax: (616) 458.0608
email: mail@buchananfirm.com