Surgical Error: What Could Go Wrong?

Medical professionals are bound by an obligation to protect their patients and uphold high standards of care, and most of the time this serves to ensure excellent outcomes. Unfortunately, however, there are occasions when standards slip below those considered acceptable, and problems such as surgical errors arise.

At S.T. O’Sullivan & Co Solicitors, we have represented clients who have suffered injuries as a result of surgical errors and understand the impact such injuries can have on people’s lives. Any person who is found to have received inadequate medical care, including surgical error, is entitled to have their situation investigated and to seek redress for any injuries or losses sustained by them.


Surgical error can include the following:

  1. Retained surgical instruments. Did you know that around 200-300 surgical instruments, tubes, needles, swabs and other items are used in every major operation? These will be counted by the surgical team before and after the procedure, but in rare cases, an item is left inside the patient’s body. This can cause serious injury. Usually, further surgery is required to correct the problem, and this can increase the health risk to the individual.
  2. Unclean surgical equipment. If a patient develops an infection after surgery, this dramatically increases the risk of complications, and this is much more likely if the instruments used during the operation are not sterile, or if a member of the surgical team does not clean themselves or the patient properly. This is a potentially life-threatening situation, and demonstrates the importance of following established procedures.
  3. Identity confusion. Hospitals work with many patients on a daily basis and in very rare cases, patient records can become mixed up. This is a situation which can result in the wrong treatment being given to a patient, and, in surgical situations, can result in dangerous and unnecessary surgery being performed on a patient. Multiple checks should be made to ensure this does not happen, but the statistics show that several patients have sought redress after finding themselves in this situation in recent years.
  4. Wrong Site Surgery. As with identity confusion, WSS is usually the result of a confusion regarding the notes of a patient. Wrong site surgery involves the wrong procedure being carried out on a patient and procedures performed in the wrong surgical site on the body, and includes wrong organ removal and wrong limb amputation. In such cases, the impact on the life of the patient is enormous, and further surgery will be required

Surgical errors can be very serious, and research shows that patients who experience surgical errors during an operation are more likely to die in hospital afterwards than those who do not. Standards must continue to improve, and the redress process helps highlights such issues and drive this change forward.


S.T. O’Sullivan & Co Solicitors, 6, Bindon Street, Ennis, Co.Clare.

Telephone: 065 – 6820620. Email:

We guarantee to return calls within one business day.