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Concurrent Surgery: When a Surgeon Bails During a Procedure

(This article reflects a story told to The Eisen Law Firm by a former client)

The truth about surgeons’ presence in the operating room

When I decided to undergo knee replacement surgery, I was pretty nervous. Being put under has always seemed a little strange to me. After all, you are relying on the expertise of an anesthesiologist to give you the proper dosage of drugs to make sure you don’t wake up during surgery. What if I woke up because of an improper dosage? Even worse, what if I woke up and could not communicate with my doctor, and felt every slice of the scalpel into my leg?

Fortunately, I did not have any complications from anesthesia during my surgery. I was out the entire procedure. I was so knocked out, in fact, that I had no idea that my trusted surgeon decided to skip part of my surgery, leaving me to the mercy of practicing residents.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I know that residents need to practice surgical procedures so that they, too, can one day become skilled surgeons. My problem was that I had no idea this was even an option. I never would have agreed to use this surgeon if I had known he was not even going to be in the room the entire operation. I mean, who likes the thought of their surgeon leaving…during surgery?

Apparently, my surgical facility allows concurrent surgeries. This means my surgeon worked on me for a little bit, then worked on another patient for a little bit. So, basically, I paid several thousand dollars for a surgery when my selected surgeon was not even with me the entire time. Oh, and get this—it’s not even a requirement for medical records to reflect when a surgeon enters and leaves the operating room. Fantastic.

I was lucky—my surgery was relatively uncomplicated and I had no major issues afterward. However, I couldn’t help but be bothered by the fact that no one had informed me that my surgeon could leave during surgery, and that this was mentioned nowhere in the ridiculous amounts of paperwork I had to sign before I went under the knife. Sure, I had to sign a form stating that I could potentially kick the bucket during the procedure, but they couldn’t give me a list of individuals who may be responsible for my untimely demise? How is liability determined if the records do not note all of the professionals in an operating room?

Going into my surgery, I knew what questions to ask. I am a data junkie by nature, and I spent hours researching the knee replacement procedure, my estimated recovery times, and possible complications that could arise during surgery. I searched for my surgeon and anesthesiologist on medical board websites to be sure they were board certified and were in good standing. I was aware of the risks of blood clots, and I had my stylish compression stockings ready to roll.

Since I had never even heard of the practice of concurrent surgeries, I did not know to ask about it. Instead, I had to find out after the fact at a post-op visit when I asked a question about a particular part of my surgery, only to be told, “Oh yes, when the resident was doing that part of the surgery, he saw….”

If a facility allows a surgeon to bounce around from room to room, that’s fine (maybe)—just let us, the patients who are (more than likely) paying thousands of dollars for these procedures, know before we have the procedure done! This will allow us the opportunity to ask questions and possibly find a new surgeon if we wish. After all, the more informed patients are, the less likely they will be angry after a procedure and file a complaint with the state’s medical board.

If concurrent surgery practices caused you harm, you should hire a skilled attorney right away

At The Eisen Law Firm, our Ohio medical malpractice attorneys have more than forty years of experience handling medical malpractice claims, including those involving problems caused by concurrent surgery practices. We offer a free consultation to evaluate your claim. Call us at 216-687-0900, or contact us online.