Complications during surgery

Sometimes problems or complications occur during surgery. It’s very unlikely that all of the complications described here would apply to you. Your surgeon can give you a better idea of your actual risks.

Generally, the more complex the surgery is, the higher the chance of problems. (See also possible complications after surgery.)

Bleeding – You may lose blood during surgery. Your surgeon will usually manage and control bleeding. Rarely, you may receive a blood transfusion during surgery to replace lost blood.

Damage to nearby tissue and organs – Most internal organs are packed tightly together, so operating on one part of the body can affect nearby tissue and organs. This may alter how other organs work after surgery – for example, the surgeon’s handling of the bowel during pelvic surgery may cause temporary constipation (difficulty passing a bowel motion) or a build-up of gas in the abdomen.

Drug reactions – In rare cases, some people have a bad reaction to anaesthetic or other drugs used during surgery. This can cause a drop in blood pressure, heart rate and breathing, which is why an anaesthetist observes you during surgery.

Tell your doctor if you’ve had any previous reactions to over-the-counter, prescribed or herbal medicine, even if the reaction was small.


This information was last reviewed in April 2019
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