Every invasive surgical procedure brings with it some level of risk. However, complex surgeries are usually most at risk and considered inherently dangerous when involving anesthesia, bleeding issues, the potential for blood clots and the time it takes to heal completely. The drugs used in anesthesia often produce a lingering side effect on the patient’s brain that can last months or years after the procedure. A blood clot or bleeding problem can cause near instant death.
Most deaths that occur in hospitals are the result of emergency surgeries where significant complications arise during the procedure. Doctors performing routine open-heart surgeries, transplants, and brain surgery usually have days, weeks or months to prepare for the operation to minimize the potential of serious difficulties that could result in death. Each of the top five most inherently dangerous surgeries has its unique problems that include:
A cardiothoracic surgeon usually makes a six-inch incision down the center of the patient’s chest wall across the sternum (breastbone) to gain access to the heart muscle. During the procedure, other medical professionals will attach the patient to a heart-lung machine that eliminates the heart’s need to circulate blood throughout the body during the operation. This by-pass lets the heart muscle remain still to allow the cardiac surgeon to continue with the heart surgery that might include a surgical valve repair, replacement, ventricular restoration or other serious heart condition.
However, opening the patient’s chest exposes them to the risk of a wound infection. In recent years, heart-lung machine manufacturers have been sued when their devices released airborne infectious particulates that contaminated surgical instruments and fell into the patient’s chest cavity. Serious complications can also be caused by other conditions including diabetes and obesity. During or after the procedure the patient might experience a stroke, heart attack, kidney or lung failure, irregular heartbeat, blood loss, the development of blood clots, memory loss or difficulties with breathing.
In recent years, liver transplants been highly successful in extending the life of the patient. However, transplanting an organ from another individual to the patient can be inherently dangerous. Patients who undergo a transplant will need to take medication to ensure the body does not reject the new organ. However, organ rejection remains a serious problem because the medication does not always block the immune system from invading and destroying the transplanted organ.
Other complications can arise in the liver transplant including a developing infection, excessive bleeding, blood vessel blockage, leaking bile ducts and malfunctioning newly transplanted organs.
Many patients undergo craniotomy procedures to remove tumor masses, tumor ablation procedures that destroy the tumor in place and brain aneurysm repairs. These procedures are extremely dangerous because they require removing a portion of the skull to gain access to brain tissue. In many incidences, the surgery is not a viable solution because the location of the tumor makes it inaccessible without causing extensive damage to the brain. Other times, only a small portion of the tumor can be removed due to inaccessibility or the potential of causing severe uncontrollable bleeding.
When the surgeries are performed, they place the patient at risk of developing a serious, life-threatening infection, blood clots, seizures, brain swelling, brain hemorrhaging, and pneumonia. The days or weeks after the surgery, the patient can develop low blood pressure and be at risk of experiencing a stroke.
Cancer Removal Procedures
Many patients must undergo surgical procedures to remove a mass of cancerous tissue or tumor for nearly any part of the body. The surgeon’s goal is to destroy the disease by removing all the cancerous tissue and some neighboring healthy tissue to ensure the malignancy is eradicated from the body. Most dangerous cancer procedures include pneumonectomy and lobectomy procedures to remove lung cancer, and mastectomies to remove breast cancer.
These surgeries are dangerous because removing any portion of the organ or tissue mass could lead to serious difficulties. These complications could include blood clots, excessive, uncontrollable bleeding, loss of organ functions, excessive pain, and the chance that cancer will return.
Some patients experienced intestinal failure, where the large colon is no longer able to digest fluids, nutrients, and electrolytes properly. A surgeon transplants intestinal tissue from one patient to another to eliminate the patient’s need to receive nutrients and electrolytes through IV fluids delivered through a catheter or needle in the vein. However, these procedures often cause life-threatening complications including infections at the catheter site, liver disease, and bone disease.
Surgeons will also perform this procedure to alleviate many of the side effects caused by intravenous feeding. Like any other organ transplant, transplanting new healthy intestine tissue from one patient to another could cause serious complications if the body’s immune system rejects the organ even when the patient is taking medication to stop organ rejection.
Medical Advancements Make Surgery Safer
Medical science has advanced significantly in the last few decades where skilled medical professionals receive extensive training to perform complicated surgeries. Mortality rates have dropped significantly in the last ten years due to medical advancements and better surgical education and training.
However, the five surgeries listed above remain the most inherently dangerous operations where performing the procedure might lead to a significantly worse outcome or death. Even with the known risks, many patients still choose to undergo surgery in the hope of improving their health and extending their lives.