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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.
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