How Medical Record Reviews Can Shoulder Surgical Error Lawsuits?

5 Mins read

What if a surgeon amputates the right leg of the patient instead of the left? Such mistakes committed by physicians are called surgical errors. A former Air Force veteran sought treatment for testicular cancer. At the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center, Benjamin Houghton underwent surgery to have his sick left testicle removed, but the doctors unintentionally removed the right, healthy testicle. The VA Medical Center was sued by Houghton and his wife, Monica, for $200,000 in damages. The Houghtons prevailed in their legal battle with the Los Angeles VA Medical Center and the surgeons responsible for the disastrous treatment in 2013.

This blog would help you understand the role of medical record reviews in proving surgical error lawsuits.

Medical malpractice claims brought against healthcare providers, hospitals, and ambulatory surgical facilities are frequently the result of surgical errors. More than 60 percent of those who experience a surgical error need further care that would not have been necessary otherwise. Seven percent of surgical error cases result in the death of the victim, and one-third of the victims experiences some kind of chronic harm or disability.

Let’s understand more about surgical errors and how medical record reviews shoulder these types of medical malpractice lawsuits.

Types of Surgical Errors

The below-mentioned types of commonly reported surgical errors in the United States.

Surgery on the wrong sites

Surgery on the wrong sites is the most frequent type of surgical error commonly occurring during amputation procedures.

Accidental Incisions

Accidental incisions may happen when the wrong portion of the body is identified for surgery.

Leaving Foreign Objects Inside the Body

Surgeons may accidentally leave surgical tools or instruments within a patient, which might result in catastrophic consequences.

Misdiagnosis or Failure to Diagnose

Misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose an illness may lead to unnecessary surgical procedures, leading to further complications or even death.

Birth Injury

Though birth injuries include many types of damage, errors during C-sections are considered common surgical errors which can cause severe injuries to the mother and the infant.


Stroke is another serious surgical error that may result from severe brain or spinal cord injuries during the surgery or due to nerve damage.

Medication Errors

A medication error is considered a surgical error when the surgeon prescribes the wrong medication or dosage of the drug before or after a surgical procedure.

Anesthesia Errors

Anesthesia error occurs due to the incorrect administration or dosage of the anesthetic during the surgery, which can lead to a coma or death of the patient.

What are the causes of a surgical error?

Inadequate Communication

Surgical errors sometimes result from poor communication between doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals. It can also happen due to a need for proper communication with the patient.


Less experienced surgeons and other staff involved in the surgery are more prone to make mistakes while performing a procedure.

Human Error

Carelessness or human errors may result in incorrect incisions, wrong procedure, incorrect care, or medication during the surgical procedure.

Drugs and Alcohol

Medical professionals under the influence of drugs or alcohol may cause surgical errors.

What if you are victimized by a surgical error?

Are you or your loved ones injured due to a surgical error? You can sue the surgeon or the medical professionals involved in the surgery through a medical malpractice lawsuit. However, unlike an ordinary medical malpractice claim, proving a surgical error would be crucial in the lawsuit. This is because every surgical procedure will have some unavoidable risks.

Certain surgical procedures carry the risk of uncontrolled bleeding and infection, for which you cannot file a lawsuit for medical malpractice.

How to file a surgical error lawsuit?

In order to establish that a doctor did not behave with the degree of care and competence that another doctor would have used in the same circumstance, a medical malpractice claim must demonstrate the doctor’s negligence. It is advised to speak with a lawyer as soon as possible if you think you have been harmed due to a surgical error.

To prove a surgical error, the claimant should prove

  1. Surgeon-patient relationship
  2. Duty of care
  3. Breach of duty
  4. Damages

The lawsuit should establish with proof that the defendant surgeon or the physician was treating the claimant and was responsible for the surgical error. The medical malpractice claim should prove that the physician had a duty of care towards the claimant and there was a breach of the duty. The final element to be proved is that the breach of duty of the surgeon had caused damages to the claimant, leading to physical and mental pain and financial burden.

Medical malpractice lawsuits for surgical errors should be filed within the statute of limitations of the particular state. If the surgical error is proved with valid evidence, the claimant would be compensated for monetary losses that have been established, such as medical costs and missed wages, through economic damages. Non-economic damages pay the plaintiff back for losses like pain, suffering, emotional anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, etc.

How to prove your damages in the lawsuit?

Proving the damages of the victim plays a vital role in a surgical error lawsuit. The primary source of proof would be the medical records of the claimant which would clearly reflect the medical history and the treatment undergone.

Can the medical records be used as such in a surgical error claim?

No. The medical records of the plaintiff would contain thousands of pages that may not be relevant to the subject injury. The medical records of the claimant in such cases should be carefully analyzed, filtering out only the case-related medical information. The filtering process is called medical record review and analysis.

Medical Record Review for Surgical Error Lawsuits

The process of analyzing the hefty medical records of a patient and picking out vital medical information is called medical record review and analysis. In any personal injury lawsuit, a medical chart review is an important step that helps the attorneys to understand the case-relevant medical data in a precise and concise manner.

Without the medical record review process, the medical malpractice attorney handling a surgical error lawsuit will have to go through the entire medical record of the claimant. Analyzing the entire medical history is time-consuming and would not be feasible for the legal team. The legal team would not be familiar with the complicated medical terminologies and short hands present in the medical records.

The solution for medical record reviewing in a surgical error lawsuit is outsourcing the process to an expert team well-versed in medical chart review services.

A medical record review outsourcing company would hold qualified medical record reviewers who can quickly dissect the medical records in a surgical error claim. The review experts would analyze the medical history of the claimant and prove that the damages sustained were not pre-existing and is surgery-related.

The medical record review team would review all the medical charts, anesthesia details, and other surgery-related records and pick out the relevant data to prove the mishap. An informed consent form that the patient signs before the surgery can also serve as vital proof to indicate the information communicated with the patient before the surgery.

Medical record reviewing would also focus on post-surgery care, medications provided to the claimant, and medical bills.

If a patient believes something went wrong during his surgery, it is advisable to make a note of the names of the medical professionals, any pertinent dates, and his observations. The odds of a favorable outcome for the claim might be increased with photographic evidence.

Solid medical record review reports prepared by experienced medical record reviewers can very well substantiate the damages sustained by the claimant in a surgical error lawsuit.