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Most Common Mistakes Made By Surgeons

Surgeons perform life-saving procedures on people every day, but what you might not know is that some surgeons make mistakes during surgery which can lead to serious injury or even death. The good news is that with the right training and support, these mistakes can be avoided altogether, saving lives and money in the process. Here are the top ten most common mistakes made by surgeons, along with ways to avoid making them yourself.

Surgeon Mistakes are fatal

When surgeons make mistakes, patients die. Recently, many cases of fatal surgical errors have made headlines around the world.  We’ve pulled together a list of ten common surgeon mistakes that will help you understand just how a seemingly simple operation can quickly turn into a life-threatening nightmare.

1. Inadequate Hygiene

Before operating on a patient, surgeons should clean their hands and don sterile gloves. Yet only about 30 percent of doctors wash up before surgery. Improper surgical site preparation: Sterile towels, drapes, and tools help reduce infections during an operation. And yet one study found that 40 percent of doctors did not follow proper safety protocols before surgery. Surgical gowns: The most common surgical-site infection is due to contaminated scrubs or gowns; practicing good hand hygiene greatly reduces infection risk.

2. Handling Tools Improperly

During surgery, instruments must be handled with extreme care to avoid damaging tissues and organs. If you’re not paying attention or if you mishandle an instrument during surgery, you could result in permanent injuries for your patient. Review proper handling techniques to ensure that your patients aren’t injured due to an error on your part. For instance, did you know that scalpels should never be dropped on sterile fields? Doing so could result in costly damages.

3. Forgetting to Document Work

It may sound basic, but surgeons can often get in a rhythm when they’re in surgery and forget to document their progress. The result? Their notes don’t match up with what they did in surgery. This is a safety issue that could put a patient at risk. It’s also likely to land your hospital or practice in hot water with regulators, so keep your documentation up-to-date.

4. Mixing Up Directions

It’s easy to mix up left and right when operating on someone, even though you know perfectly well that they’re paying attention to you. There are two reasons for mistakes like these. The first is overconfidence—you’ve done it thousands of times before, so what could go wrong? You might even be able to perform with your eyes closed! Second, during an operation, surgeons become oblivious to their surroundings. This makes it hard for them to pay attention to details.

Because each operation is unique, surgeons must read and understand all operative reports before starting on an operation. When surgeons fail to do so, they run a risk of injury for themselves and their patients. Sometimes it can even lead to death. 

5. Lack of Compassion

Doctors and surgeons are seen as having a high position in society, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t experience bad attitudes and poor behavior. If you find yourself constantly upset at doctors and other medical professionals for their lack of compassion, it may be time to consider changing careers. Patients want to feel like they are your top priority; if you aren’t able to make them feel safe and secure in your care, you should reevaluate what you do each day.

6. Unsafe Work Environment

A safe work environment ensures protection from potential hazards such as fire, electrical shock, radiation, and bloodborne pathogens. A surgeon must use necessary precautions to avoid hazards such as these. If surgeons are careless about protecting themselves from hazardous conditions, their patients will be put at risk of coming into contact with contaminants that could potentially cause illness or injury. Physicians must be sure to wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) in operating rooms and other settings to help them stay safe while working.

7. Poor Communication Skills

We all know that communication is key in every field, but it’s essential for a surgeon. Poor communication skills can lead to a misdiagnosis or ineffective treatment plan, both of which can be devastating for patients. And surgeons are expected to not only communicate with patients and their families before, during, and after surgery but also other health care professionals like nurses, residents, and specialists.

8. Not Following Rules/Protocols Set

The most common mistake that surgeons make is not following guidelines set forth by their organization. A surgeon’s number one priority is to keep patients safe. When a surgeon becomes complacent or feels they are above reproach, they put patients at risk. This can be avoided with an attitude of accountability and honesty with colleagues, administration, and peers. Rules exist for good reason, follow them! If you don’t know why they exist or what they are trying to prevent, ask your peers.

The medical industry is one of great responsibility and power. Doctors, surgeons, and nurses are in high demand, but it’s important to realize that many people entering these careers don’t have proper training. We would all like to think that doctors can be trusted to act in our best interest, but mistakes happen. Some common mistakes made by surgeons include skipping pre-surgery checkups or not documenting an exam after surgery. This list is only a small sample of some major surgical mistakes so be sure to ask questions if you find yourself concerned with any possible discrepancies.


  1. What is the most common mistake made by surgeons?
    Surgeons make three kinds of mistakes; diagnosis, management, and operation mistakes.
  2. How do you avoid making the most common mistakes made by surgeons?
    The best way to avoid making these mistakes is to be aware of them. Think about each step in a surgical procedure and have a checklist.
  3. What can cause a doctor to make a mistake during surgery
    A lack of skill or carelessness. Perhaps he is rushing to finish an operation in time for his lunch break, or maybe she is a poor surgical technician who doesn’t know how to properly clean a scalpel.
  4. How many surgeons have been cited in malpractice cases
    The National Practitioner Data Bank estimates there is an average of 234,000 cases of medical malpractice per year. Of these cases, doctors are usually at fault for 85%, or 199,000 annually.
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