Photo: libertygrace0 / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

Surgeons Describe Their "Oh Sh*t" Moments In The Operating Room

Doctors have seen some pretty gnarly things in hospitals and waiting rooms but surgeons are the medical professionals who see the most gore. By the very nature of their job, surgeons must endure patients with gruesome diseases, malodorous body scents, and rotting flesh. Additionally, they must brave it all with steady hands and clear heads. How do surgeons abide such things and return to their jobs day after day? First, they scrub their hands vigorously. Second, theirs is one of the highest paid professions in the world. Large sums of money can make almost anything palatable. 

Surgeons also seem to enjoying sharing their tales with one another in order to make the horror less scarring. They've created a thread on Reddit detailing all of the moments when they went, "Huh, how in the world is this even possible?" And all of those WTF moments are below to make you wonder if any amount of wealth is worth such a queasy stomach, and whether you'll ever trust yourself to go under a surgeon's knife ever again.

Photo: libertygrace0 / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

  • These Surgeons Accidentally Gave A Patient A Suntan

    From Reddit user Traveledfartothewest:

    "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 suntan."

  • They Lost A Needle In A Patient's Jugular

    From Reddit user DrShlomo:

    "We were putting up a central line for a drip with an 18G needle... 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 guy's 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."

  • One Surgeon Perforated An Eyeball But The Patient Didn't Care

    From Reddit user ugm9mjh:

    "I was a junior doctor working in neurosurgery back in 2008 when one of the senior registrars (I suppose the equivalent is chief resident in the USA) told me his most unfortunate moment. In order to have a patient's head stabilized for surgery he was using a frame that had a set of three spikes that held the head in place. Due to the angle he needed to approach from, this required the patient to be face down. As he was placing the head of the anesthetized patient on to the frame the head slipped and his eye landed on to 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, [he] received the response: 'That's OK I was blind in that eye anyway.'"

  • One Unconscious Patient's Bowels Kept Falling Out

    From a former Reddit user:

    "We had a patient in the ICU who had some big abdomen trauma. He had gone to the OR and was too sick to be able to close his abdomen, so we left it open. We had a piece of plastic covering, like a bag, covering his intestines and then we placed a vacuumed sponge dressing on top of that...

    "The patient's nurse called me into the room to look at the abdomen because she thought she saw pieces of the bowel seeping out of the bag and getting sucked against the [wound dressing]. I agreed and thought the bowel looked pretty dusky as well, so we called the doc to come and look at it.

    "The resident agreed and talked to his attending who told him to take the [dressing] off, tuck the bowel back into the bag it had escaped from, and put a new [dressing] on...

    "So, resident comes in... and the bowels had become very swollen from the fluids, trauma, etc. So when he took the [dressing] off, [the bowels] all slipped out of the patient. The bag had dislodged significantly. We would tuck the bowels in one side, they'd spill out the other. Here we had this guy in his bed, disemboweling and we simply could not get everything back in him, in the bag, or anything.

    "Luckily, the drugs we had the patient on kept him very nicely sedated and we had other drugs to control any problems with his blood pressure and the guy wasn't overtly bleeding... It was MESSY. We really just had to step back and say, 'Well, sh*t. How do we get this guy's guts back inside him?'

    "Ended up having to call in six other people to help tuck things here and there until he could get back to the OR for them to get everything back into its proper place..."

  • Just Another Day Of Broken Blades And Body Fires

    From Reddit user Deadroachdancing:

    "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, but still it was a [scary] moment."

  • The Senior Doctor Got Food Poisoning And Left The Operating Room

    From Reddit user Suckitz7:

    "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 heart beat. Apparently, the doctor had gotten food poisoning and made a run 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, '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. 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. And after a few minutes properly removes the catheters and wires. They get treated like sh*t but have saved ALL of the fellows in training and senior doctors many, many times in complicated situations with their knowledge."