Surgeons Are Revealing The Mistakes They've Made When Performing Surgery, And I'm Speechless

When it comes to certain professions, like doctors or surgeons, I often view them as larger-than-life figures who never make mistakes — however, we all know that isn't true at all. A redditor asked, "Surgeons of Reddit, what has been your biggest 'Oh shit' moment?" and let's just say, based on the many responses, I might hesitate to go under the knife ever again. Here is what some people shared:

Doctors performing surgery, wearing surgical gowns, gloves, masks, and protective eyewear
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1."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 was meant to come out, and only the plastic remained, but now we had lost the needle inside this guy's jugular. Before we could even fish it out, it was gone. I looked at my fellow surgeons and nurses, and before we could do anything, we rushed him right into the theater. After a few minutes, we fished the needle out near his subclavian vein — closer to the shoulder — and we breathed a sigh of relief."


2."I wasn't present for this, but I got to deal with the fallout. The client brings his cat (found as a stray) to be spayed. The vet (my boss) preps the cat for surgery and begins cutting, but can't find the uterus or ovaries. The cat is a male! And poor kitty just had his belly sliced open for no reason whatsoever. The owner was, understandably, furious."

Medical office with cabinets and equipment, including a computer, fridge, and medical supplies on shelves, suggesting a sterile and professional environment
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3."I was a junior doctor working in neurosurgery in 2008 when one of the senior registrars (I suppose the equivalent is chief resident in the USA) told me his most unfortunate moment. To stabilize a patient's head for surgery, he used a frame with three spikes that held the head in place. Due to the angle from which he needed to approach, the patient had to facedown. As he was placing the head of the anesthetized patient onto the frame, the head slipped, and his eye landed on the spike, perforating the eyeball."

"Panicking and thinking that his career was now over, he then (rather bizarrely) started poking at the eyeball, trying to work out what was what until the anesthetist told him to stop. They then called the ophthalmologist, who came to tidy up what was now a completely ruined eye. After the surgery, terrified, he went to explain to the patient what had happened. Understandably fearing the worst, anger, distress, and tears, I received the response, 'That's ok, I was blind in that eye anyway!'


4."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 flew, and my blade broke. Luckily, I was standing off to the side instead of directly behind the blade as it flew backward 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, but still an 'Oh shit' moment."

Surgeons focus intently on a medical procedure in a well-lit operating room, wearing surgical masks and caps
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5."My first C-Section was quite the shocker, but after that, not a lot phases me anymore. This event occurred during one of my high school internships to see if medicine would be my field. I'm not sure why, but they let me attend a C-section. They placed me at the feet of the woman who was numb from the chest down. I give her a little nod, and the operation starts. Well, no one had thought to tell me that once the belly is cut, the liquids go out, too. This is a logical thing, but I was seated at least three meters from the feet of said woman, and the fluids gushing from her abdomen came all the way to my feet. Here is me, standing in a woman's pregnancy fluids. Oh. Fuck. I must have looked very shocked because the other surgeons laughed at my reaction. Ever since, I've not been shocked once."


6."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."


7."The medical stuff really becomes a blur. Complications, bad outcomes, wild patients. After a few years, even the bad stuff becomes part of the routine. But one moment still stuck with me from training — I was called into a meeting with the program director, which is never a good thing, and I wasn't entirely sure why. He makes some small talk, then starts asking about one of the junior residents who had been on my service. Definitely one of the weaker residents, but hard-working and likable. I start talking about her performance, relationship with the other residents, strengths and weaknesses, etc."

Surgeons in scrubs perform a medical procedure in an operating room

8."This happened to me when I was training to be a cardiologist. I was in my second or third heart procedure/catheterization when my senior doctor got sick, ripped off his surgical gown, and ran out of the room. The doctor had just yelled, 'Oh, no!' and left. I had just positioned these catheters with wires into the sleeping patient's heart. They were just hanging out there, pulsating to his heartbeat. Apparently, the doctor had gotten food poisoning and ran for the bathroom — never to return. So, I've never made it to this point in the procedure before and am just wondering where to take it from here. I haven't even been taught how to take them out safely. I'm looking at the vitals and monitors like, Fuck. What do I do now?"

"Of course, they page my senior cardiology fellow in training, who is taking a nap and not returning any pages or calls. There are no other doctors around. Finally, thank GOD, my tech/assistant, who has done these procedures since before I was born, gives me a nudge to flush the catheters, which I do, to prevent blood clots and death essentially. After a few minutes, the catheters and wires are properly removed. They get treated like shit but have saved ALL of the fellows in training and senior doctors many, many times in complicated situations with their knowledge."


9."This happened while I was a clerk. The lights flickered in the operating theatre while the surgeon was performing gallbladder surgery. He laughed it off and joked about how it reminded him of his overseas elective to Africa. The anesthesia doctor was also laughing it off. Then, the power went out. The anesthesia machine (the beeping machine that monitors the patient's vitals so you know s/he is still alive and doing well) is turned off. Instantly, the anesthetist jumped up, shouted, 'Oh, shit!' and went to work trying to turn on any sort of battery backup that might be available."

"The surgeon became dead serious and started moving at lightning speed. Then, an announcement came saying there was a fire in the hospital and that they should evacuate immediately. The problem is, as a surgeon, you're not allowed to leave a patient on the operating table. EVER. Even if the fire is right outside the door. So the surgeon worked super quickly to close the patient up and ensure he was stable, and then we woke him up and evacuated. It turns out the fire was a floor below us and had destroyed the electrical wires — hence the blackout (and why the emergency generators didn't work). One of the scariest experiences of my life happened in the operating room."


10."My specialty is the lower extremity, so there aren't too many things I can screw up that makes you say, 'Oh shit,' and all hell breaks loose. But the one that immediately comes to mind was when I was the chief resident and was doing an ankle fracture with a junior resident. It's nothing crazy where the bones are sticking out, but it definitely needed to be opened and repaired. So, the resident was dissecting down to the site of the fracture on the inside of the ankle and was getting close to the back part of the ankle where all the tendons, veins, and arteries are. So she pointed out an area that was part of the joint capsule that needed to be opened up to visualize the fracture and asked if it was ok to proceed. It was close to the artery but looked ok from where I was standing, so I said go for it."

A surprised woman with long hair and open mouth holds her hands to her face in shock. She appears to be indoors

11."I am a surgical assistant for my dad, an oral surgeon. We were doing routine wisdom teeth, but the kid was on laughing gas and Novocain (usually everyone put under). So, we got the first three teeth out fine on the last upper tooth, and this kid is literally laughing on laughing gas. We pop the tooth out, and he laughs and swallows his tooth. This being my first month or two, they panicked, and he finally coughed up the tooth and was okay but a little freaky."


12."As a nursing student, I was watching a gallbladder removal. I was bored as I'd seen 10 of these and was tired of it. I'm watching the screen, and the surgeon accidentally nicked the liver. He paused, said, 'Uh oh,' and carried on. He cauterized the cut that was bleeding pretty badly. I never knew if he was normal or not. Everyone remained kinda calm, but the doctor also had an audience."


13."My ex is a urologist. During one of his first cases in residency, he snipped something somewhere that he shouldn't have (there was a ton of fat/blood/something obstructing the views), and the 75-year-old patient ended up losing a kidney. He felt horrible."


If you're a surgeon with a similar story, share it with me in the comments below!