Surgical errors may result from the decision to perform unnecessary surgery. A recent study performed by the Mayo Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery reports that thyroidectomy — surgical removal of the thyroid gland — is often performed unnecessarily. According to the Mayo Center, surgical removal of the thyroid has more than tripled in the past 30 years. According to one Mayo Center researcher, overutilization of thyroidectomy “is exposing patients to unnecessary and harmful treatments that are inconsistent with their prognosis.”
The Mayo Clinic’s website reports that potential complications of thyroidectomy include:
- Airway obstruction caused by bleeding
- Permanent hoarse or weak voice due to nerve damage
- Damage to the four small glands located behind the thyroid (parathyroid glands), which can lead to hypoparathyroidism, resulting in abnormally low calcium levels in the blood and bones and an increased amount of phosphorus in the blood.
In addition, as with any surgical procedure, there is a risk of infection and anesthesia-related complications.
There is an inherent financial incentive for surgeons to perform surgery. An ethical, caring surgeon would never put a patient at unnecessary risk by performing unneeded surgery. However, it happens all too often. When complications arise out of an unnecessary surgery and injury results, a claim for medical negligence, also called medical malpractice, may exist under Ohio law.
Most surgical errors involve operations performed on the wrong body part (wrong-side surgery), damage to nearby organs, retained foreign objects (i.e., leaving a sponge or towel behind), failure to obtain informed consent, and failure to diagnose and treat a post-op infection or perforation in a timely manner. However, patient selection and faulty indications for surgery can be just as harmful to patients.