Surgeons And Doctors Share Their Biggest 'Whoops' Moments

A surgeon during an operation
Unsplash | JAFAR AHMED

Everyone is bound to mess up from time to time. Read that again: everyone messes up, even those who are typically very precise in their activities.

What I'm trying to say here is that even the people who will potentially be tasked with saving your life are bound to make the occasional blunder in the course of their work.

Is it unsettling? Sure. But sometimes the truth is unsettling. This r/AskReddit thread isn't going to inspire much confidence in medical professionals.

Shouldn't a doctor know the difference?

Doctor operating in a dark room
Unsplash | Mehmet Turgut Kirkgoz

"Nurse here. I was assisting with a simple vasectomy and the doctor was having trouble differentiating the vas deferens from the testicular artery. I stopped him just before he cut the artery. If he cut that, the testicle would die... not to mention make a very bloody mess."


Pobody's nerfect.

Surgeons performing an operation
Unsplash | Olga Guryanova

"This is from a doctor I knew quite well: a peer of his whilst medical school ended up having one of these moments. Apparently she didn't get the memo because she was performing a hysterectomy on a woman and it was during this that well, simply put a child came out. Whoops. I found it hard to believe but this doctor is not the type to [lie]. In the end it worked out fine, she delivered a surprise (to her) child during the process. He told me that his friend ended up becoming a really accomplished surgeon and he frequently refers folks to her."


Well, that's pretty horrifying.

Screaming man in black and white
Unsplash | Dmitry Vechorko

"When my nurse accidentally gave my patient a lower dose of anesthesia during a heart surgery I was performing and the patient opened his eyes and screamed during the operation so we had to stop it."


Keep it to yourself, please.

Doctors performing surgery
Unsplash | Akram Huseyn

"I have a very interesting co-worker that had to have back surgery and she was awake during surgery, not knowing that she wasn't supposed to be. She heard the surgical team talking about their lunch plans and various things and then the surgeon insulted her weight and how big her butt was. She still was awake throughout the surgery and at the end told the doctor 'I know I am overweight, but keep your comments to yourself please!' he then was in shock that she was awake and then apologized a lot... She took it pretty well though. She has a lot of funny stories, she also got struck by lightning...."


Now they're down one nurse and up one patient.

A nurse wearing scrubs and a mask
Unsplash | Luke Jones

"When I was a medical student I got to scrub in on a big vascular surgery case. One of the lights was a bit tricky to adjust and the surgeon gave it a bit too enthusiastic a yank when it needed to be moved partway through the operation. The light hit the scrub nurse on the head, knocking her unconscious and into the huge table of open instruments."


Could have been worse, all things considered.

A golden-brown mouse
Unsplash | Ricky Kharawala

"Not a surgeon but I assisted with a neural EMG electrode implantation surgery at a major children's hospital. It was performed on a mouse who proceeded to poop on the surgeons hand before being put under anesthesia."


Easy mistake to make.

"Emergency pull" tab
Unsplash | Jason Leung

"I wasn't the surgeon involved in the case, but a patient had a bump on his leg. After imaging, it looked like it was an abscess collection that needed drainage.

The patient was taken to the OR and the subcutaneous tissue dissected off. All of a sudden blood starts squirting. Turns out the abscess was really a femoral artery aneurysm.

Overhead Stat call for the vascular surgeon to bail him out."


I'm rapidly losing faith in modern medicine.

Medical diagrams of hand, skull and spine
Unsplash | Joyce McCown

"There's a reason why prior to surgery a big deal is made about what you're operating on (for example is it the right arm or the left arm). Usually it's pretty obvious, sometimes it's not. A neurosurgeon goes in to do a hemispherectomy (removal of half the cerebral hemisphere). Guess which half he ends up taking out accidentally. Hint: The story doesn't have a happy ending."


Things were still coming together.

Surgeon in scrubs and a mask
Unsplash | Habib Dadkhah

"My mom had gone in for surgery. Because the hospital didn't have what they needed they had to have an essential part for the surgery shipped to them. The day comes for the surgery and my mom is prepped, the OR is prepped, the surgeon took the day off from his practice, and my mom is put under. The part they needed (a fluid I believe) arrived and a nurse said, 'We never ordered that.' And sent the guy away."


Good thing they weren't five years older.

A man in doctor's uniform with arms folded over chest
Unsplash | Usman Yousaf

"I was the patient, not the doctor, but the doctor in charge of the surgery I went through in 2008 (22 hours, 3 doctors and 55 units of blood) said that if I'd been five years older and he'd seen what he did upon opening me up...he'd have closed me up, sent me home and told me to enjoy the rest of my time. It was sobering to (eventually) hear that."


They call her Nurse Butterfingers.

X-ray of a hand
Unsplash | Owen Beard

"I was observing a hand surgery about a year ago at a teaching hospital. The surgeon was removing one of the carpals (the bones near the base of the hand) to be used later. A nurse was given the carpal to hold until it needed to be used. She ended up dropping the patient's bone on the ground."


Maybe he shouldn't have gotten a good evaluation.

A doctor in scrubs and a mask giving a thumbs up
Unsplash | Sander Sammy

"I'm a medschool student. A student two years older than me dropped a brain tumor on the floor on the first surgery he ever went on. The surgeon laughed at him, then told him to leave his operation room. He was devastated and never saw that surgeon again! But he still got a good evaluation for that rotation...!"


Things can go sideways quickly.

Hand holding two red pills
Unsplash | Kateryna Hliznitsova

"We had a young guy get a vasectomy, and they gave him norco for pain when he got home. Not wanting to feel drugged up on narcotics, he started taking lots of Advil instead. He killed his kidneys within a couple days and came back on dialysis :("


Sparks were flying.

A spark from a sparkler
Unsplash | Jez Timms

"Not quite a surgeon, but somewhat medical. I was bisecting someone's leg (deceased) and i did not know that said person had a metal rod through their femur. Proceed to cut through the bone with a metal saw. Sparks fly and my blade broke. Luckily I was standing off to the side, instead of directly behind the blade, as it flew backwards and hit the wall. The clothes the person had been wearing were lying underneath the body and caught a spark. I doused it with the water hose before a large flame could start."


Can't trust robots.

A whimsical wind-up robot
Unsplash | Rock'n Roll Monkey

"Surgical robot froze in a case, had to reboot. But the arm was grasping a main blood vessel. So we didn't want to reboot for fear the arms would re-home and let go of the vessel. Also, we lost video when it froze so we couldn't just retract the instruments. Lots of people saying oh [expletive] oh [expletive]... I am the one pushing the power switch so if it tears out someones organs they all look at me.."


What a pro.

Surgeons looking down at patient, from patient's perspective
Unsplash | National Cancer Institute

"I woke up during the last part of my gallbladder removal. I felt this pressure, as my surgeon (had him for a prior operation, funny guy) was trying to close one of the wounds. I lifted my head, we locked eyes and he had this startled 'Oh [expletive]', look. Then he snapped back to normal, said 'patient's up,' and the anaesthetist was on that. Woke up an hour later in recovery."


You'd think they'd check for something like that.

A black and white cat
Unsplash | Manja Vitolic

"I wasn't present for this, but I got to deal with the fallout. Client brings his cat (found as a stray) to be spayed. The vet (my boss) preps cat for surgery and begins cutting...and can't find the uterus or ovaries...

Uh oh. Cat is a male! And poor kitty just had his belly sliced open for no reason whatsoever. The owner was, understandably, furious."


Lit up like the 4th of July.

Flames against a black background
Unsplash | Cullan Smith

"Way way back in the day pre-op was done with alcohol-based cleaners. Naked, sedated guy with a light sheen of cleaning fluid on him + static electric spark = fully engulfed in flames. Everyone just stood there for a second til someone grabbed a sheet and put out the flames. Surgery went well, no complications, slight sun tan."


I sincerely hope this one isn't true.

a pair of hand in the process of putting on surgical gloves
Unsplash | Clay Banks

"I perform a C-Section on a hefty woman once. Everything was happening fine and I took the baby out and stitched the woman up. I found out later that day that the hefty woman was pregnant with twins and I forgot one of the babies inside her."


All's well that ends well?

A surgeon during an operation
Unsplash | JAFAR AHMED

"We were putting up a central line for a drip with an 18G needle (1.2mm- relatively big compared to most needles) in the patient's external jugular, and all of a sudden the needle went right into the jugular. We all started panicking because usually with a drip the needle is meant to come out and only the plastic remains, but now we had lost the needle inside this guys jugular.

Before we could even fish it out it was gone, I looked at the fellow surgeons and nurses and before we could do anything we rushed him right into theater. After a few minutes we fished the needle out near his subclavian vein- closer towards the shoulder- and we breathed a sigh of relief."