These ‘Simple’ Surgeries Can Actually Have Terrifying Complications

Sometimes surgery is unavoidable, and few people will want to consider the potential issues resulting from going under the knife. However, even some of the most simple surgeries can have major complications that you should be aware of.


Woman grabs her stomach.

A very routine but often dangerous procedure. | Champja/iStock/Getty Images

One in 20 people will need an appendectomy during their lifetime. It’s one of the most common procedures in the world, administered when an appendix is inflamed or infected. However, as with any surgery, complications can occur.

According to, removal of the appendix may create other problems that require immediate attention. These include infections around the incision area or a drastically serious complication such as peritonitis. Peritonitis infections enter the bloodstream and can be life-threatening.

Cataract surgery

Surgeons performing on a patient.

Cataract surgery isn’t free from complications. | DragonImages

Cataracts cloud the normally clear lens of the eyes, and cataract surgery intends to remove the cloudy lens and replace it with a clear artificial lens. WebMD said that while less than 10% of patients have complications that threaten their sight, the rate of complications increases for those who have eye diseases in addition to cataracts.

Cataract surgery puts patients at risk of partial to total vision loss if the surgery is unsuccessful or encounters complications. Some of these can be treated, while others cannot. Other dangerous complications include bleeding in the front of the eye (hyphema) or retinal detachment.


A baby sleeps in a white crib.

Some mothers could be at risk. |

Women require a cesarean section, or c-section when doctors decide it will be safer than vaginal delivery for the mother in question. While the World Health Organization found that the ideal, “medically necessary” target for c-sections is 10 to 15% per year, the rate of cesarean sections a few years ago was at a staggering 32.7%.

While most c-section procedures are relatively safe, in rare instances, the procedure can affect the mother, the baby, or both. These complications include bladder or other organ injuries in mothers, and the potential for immature lungs and breathing problems for infants if there is a due date miscalculation. Maternal death occurs in only 2 out of 100,000 c-sections.

Carotid endarterectomy 

Surgeons working on a patient.

This surgery carries some risks. | Jacoblund

A carotid endarterectomy is a surgery that removes blockage from carotid arteries, located in the neck, which supplies blood to the brain. Left untreated, a blocked carotid artery can cause a stroke.

However, the procedure itself has the potential for severe complications. Around 4% of patients experience nerve damage, however, most are temporary. About 2% are at risk of stroke following the carotid endarterectomy, although this may be higher in people who had a stroke before the operation, according to the NHS.

Partial colectomy

A team of three surgeons performing on a doctor.

The patient can be at risk for negative effects. |

Patients who undergo a partial colectomy often do so to treat colon cancer or inflammatory conditions like ulcerative colitis. However, this procedure has a high mortality and complication rate primarily when performed in an emergency situation. Complications include bladder and blood vessel injury, and in rare cases, death.

Joaquim M. Havens, M.D., director of Emergency Surgical Services at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston, suspects there are several reasons complications occur. “The diseases that affect the colon that would require emergency surgery can be very severe, including diverticulitis or perforated cancers that can make patients very sick when they come.” Also, when done in an emergency, there’s significantly less time to cleanse the colon, making the surgery riskier.


A doctor holds a scalpel.

Not as risk-free as you’d think. |

A tonsillectomy, the removal of one or both tonsils, is necessary when the procedure is performed in response to the repeated occurrence of acute tonsillitis, or to prevent recurring sleep apnea and nasal airway obstruction. Nearly 500,000 tonsillectomies are performed annually, however, studies show that complications are more common than most think.

A study published in Pediatrics found that 8% of nearly 140,000 otherwise healthy children ages one to 18 had to revisit the hospital within 30 days of their tonsillectomy. Nearly 64% had to go to the emergency department, while the rest were admitted to the hospital. Bleeding was the most common reason for the revisits, followed by vomiting and dehydration, pain, and infection.

Joint replacements

Senior woman in hospital.

There are complications you should be aware of. | Shironosov/iStock/Getty Images

Over one million Americans undergo a joint replacement surgery each year. The majority are knee and hip replacement surgeries. People with joint damage, typically due to some form of arthritis, often have this operation. Surgeons may replace the entire joint or just a part of it, and both procedures can result in complications.

The soft tissue like muscles and tendons around the hip may be damaged during hip replacement surgery. In rare cases, this results in damage to the surrounding arteries or nerves, resulting in leg weakness or decreased feeling. Infection is another serious complication that can befall patients. Medicare data revealed that patients 65 and older who had hip replacement surgery had an infection rate of 1%, and of those, nearly half had a serious systemic infection.

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