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The 7 Common Surgery Complications: How to Avoid Them and When They Turn into Medical Malpractice

  • 5 min read

Surgery is a routine part of modern medicine, and it can be lifesaving or life-enhancing for many patients. However, complications can arise during or after surgery, leading to negative consequences. It’s important to understand the common complications that can occur and how they can be avoided. Additionally, it’s crucial to recognize when these complications may be the result of medical malpractice. In this blog post, we will discuss the seven most common surgery complications, how they can be prevented, and when they may constitute medical malpractice.


Infection is a risk in any surgical procedure, and it can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi. Infections can range from mild to life-threatening, depending on the type and severity of the infection.

How to avoid it:

Hospitals and surgical centers have strict guidelines in place to minimize the risk of infection. These guidelines include proper handwashing, sterilizing instruments, and maintaining a clean operating environment. As a patient, you can reduce your risk of infection by following your doctor’s pre- and post-operative instructions carefully.

When it may be medical malpractice:

If a surgeon or medical professional fails to follow proper infection control procedures or if the surgical instruments were not properly sterilized, it may be considered medical malpractice.


Some bleeding is expected during surgery, but excessive bleeding can lead to complications such as blood clots, shock, or even death.

How to avoid it:

Surgeons use various techniques to control bleeding during surgery, such as cautery or sutures. Before surgery, patients should inform their doctor of any medications or supplements they’re taking that may increase bleeding risk.

When it may be medical malpractice:

If a surgeon fails to control bleeding appropriately or does not address excessive bleeding in a timely manner, it may be considered medical malpractice.

Anesthesia Complications

Anesthesia is essential for many surgical procedures, but complications can arise due to allergic reactions, incorrect dosing, or other issues.

How to avoid it:

Prior to surgery, an anesthesiologist will review your medical history and discuss potential risks. Be sure to inform them of any allergies, previous anesthesia experiences, or other pertinent medical information.

When it may be medical malpractice:

If an anesthesiologist administers an incorrect dosage or fails to monitor your vital signs during surgery, this may be considered medical malpractice.

Nerve or Organ Damage

During surgery, there is always a risk of damage to nerves, blood vessels, or organs surrounding the surgical site.

How to avoid it:

Choose a skilled and experienced surgeon, as they are less likely to cause unintentional damage during the procedure. Additionally, discuss any potential risks with your surgeon before the surgery.

When it may be medical malpractice:

If a surgeon’s negligence or inexperience directly results in nerve or organ damage, it may be considered medical malpractice.

Blood Clots

Blood clots can form in the legs or pelvis after surgery, and they can be life-threatening if they travel to the lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism.

How to avoid it:

To minimize the risk of blood clots, patients should follow their doctor’s recommendations, which may include wearing compression stockings, taking blood-thinning medications, or moving around as soon as possible after surgery.

When it may be medical malpractice:

If a doctor fails to properly assess a patient’s risk for blood clots or does not provide appropriate preventive measures, it may be considered medical malpractice.

Postoperative Pain

Pain is a common side effect of surgery, but severe or prolonged pain may indicate complications or issues with pain management.

How to avoid it:

Effective pain management begins with open communication between the patient and the medical team. Inform your healthcare provider of your pain levels, and discuss options for pain relief, including medications, physical therapy, or alternative treatments.

When it may be medical malpractice:

If a medical professional fails to adequately address a patient’s pain or prescribes inappropriate pain management methods, it may be considered medical malpractice.

Surgical Site Complications

Surgical site complications can include wound dehiscence (the surgical wound reopens), seroma (a buildup of fluid), or hematoma (a buildup of blood).

How to avoid it:

Proper wound care is essential in preventing these complications. Follow your doctor’s instructions regarding wound care and be sure to keep the area clean and dry. Additionally, avoid activities that may strain the incision site until you have fully healed.

When it may be medical malpractice:

If a surgeon’s technique or postoperative care directly leads to surgical site complications, it may be considered medical malpractice.

Although surgery can be life-changing or lifesaving, it is not without risks. By understanding the common complications that can occur during or after surgery, patients can take proactive measures to minimize these risks. Additionally, recognizing when complications may be the result of medical malpractice is essential in holding medical professionals accountable for their actions. If you believe that you or a loved one has experienced medical malpractice, it’s important to consult with an experienced attorney to discuss your options and protect your rights.