For any of you who have had to undergo surgery at some point during your lifetime, you will be all too familiar with that edgy feeling, the one of uncertainty you get as you are rolled into the operating room. You know everything will more than likely run smoothly, but thanks to films like Awake starring Jessica Alba, and the even creepier The Skin I Live In starring Antonio Banderas, many of us are terrified of the nightmarish possible outcomes. Not recommended viewing if you are about to go under the knife any time soon.
Thankfully, medical nightmares do not happen too often and most of us will be pretty safe in the hands of our surgeon and their team. In fact, the greatest risk involved in surgery is in the aftercare process, the European Surgical Outcomes Study finding that ‘as many as 4 out of every 100 people’ undergoing surgery are at risk of death after the procedure. This is due to various factors, highest among them is the clinician’s failure to admit at risk patients to critical care wards post-surgery.
We have all heard the horror stories about patients waking up mid surgery, unable to move or cry out for help. Amazingly, this is much more common than we think. Studies carried out by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, the University of Chicago and the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg indicate that roughly 1 out of every 10,000 patients remain conscious during surgery to, a fact, to which their doctor remains oblivious. This is not the only thing that can go wrong. Cases have been reported whereby patients have been recovering from surgery only to discover that their surgeon has left a parting gift in the form of a scalpel before being stitched up again. It truly is the stuff of nightmares.
10 Anaesthesia Awareness
Anaesthesia Awareness, or, ‘unintended inoperative awareness’ occurs when the anaesthesia administered to a patient during a surgical procedure has been ineffective. The patient remains wide awake, fully aware of their surroundings, often suffering from immense pain while doctors cut them open.
9 Retained Foreign Bodies
This happens surprisingly often during surgery. ‘Retained foreign bodies’ range from sponges to scissors or scalpals on the more detrimental end of the scale. A study carried out by researchers at Johns Hopkins University has found that a foreign object ‘is left inside a patient’s body 39 times’ a week.
8 Operating On The Wrong Patient
It sounds like something straight out of Carry on Doctor but believe it or not, it happens. This medical nightmare is usually down to a paperwork glitch…which comes at a big cost to the patient, and the hospital as compensation paid out to victims of medical negligence is on the rise.
7 Operating On The Wrong Body Part
6 Baby Mix-Ups
It’s a nightmare scenario for parents, the kind of thing you would expect to witness on screen. There are a number of unfortunate cases out there though where parents are faced with the agonising realisation that they have been sent home with the wrong baby. Luckily, these cases are few and far between, the majority of hospitals having implemented measures to ensure this doesn’t occur.
5 Demara, 'The Great Imposter'
4 Misplaced Tubes
It is often the case that patients in a critical condition require breathing and/or feeding tubes during their stay in a medical facility. It is standard procedure and not something we give much thought to. Frighteningly though, if these tubes are misplaced or improperly handled, it can result in serious damage and even death in some cases.
One of the biggest scandals to hit the island of Ireland in recent years was the harrowing cases of symphysiotomy carried out by obstetrician Dr. Michael Neary at the Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda. Neary’s malpractice makes for disturbing reading. The doctor essentially ripped the uteri out of countless women shortly after giving birth, for absolutely no medical reason. Over the course of his career, Neary carried out at least 129 caesarean hysterectomies and those are the one’s that have just been accounted for.
2 Thalidomide Scandal
Most of us will have heard something about the thalidomide distribution scandal of the 1950's and 60's. Originally released as a sedative, it was also found to ease the effects of morning sickness and so was administered to pregnant women. It was withdrawn from the market in 1962 when it became apparent that it posed risks for the developing fetus which resulted in birth defects.
1 Botched Plastic Surgery
When faced with the innumerable possibilities of what can (and does) go wrong during surgery, it’s pretty hard to understand why someone would repeatedly put themselves through voluntary surgery, but to each their own. When thinking about botched plastic surgeries, it isn't long before Jocelyn Wildenstein comes to mind. Reported to have undergone roughly 30 surgeries, Wildenstein has come to be known as ‘Catwoman’ due to undergoing extensive surgeries in order to look more feline, a look she has spent over $4 million pursuing. Wildenstein has undergone lip augmentations, eyebrow lifts, facelifts and breast augmentations, to name but a few, over the years.
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