Are There Any Dangers of Being a Surgeon?

Precision is key for surgeons to avoid dangers of providing high-risk health care.
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While your patients often face the more critical dangers, being a surgeon certainly has a number of risks and dangers. This is the case for general surgeons as well as those that specialize in fields such as neurosurgery or cardiac surgery. The pressure and dangers of the job contribute to high pay for surgeons, who earned an average annual salary of $231,550 as of May 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Personal Health and Safety

Surgeons commonly work with sharp instruments and complex equipment in performing procedures. This creates a lot of opportunities for you to inadvertently nick your finger, hands, arm or wrist. Lifting or moving equipment also creates the possibility of accidents, or injuries to your arm, back or legs. Additionally, surgeons are in close quarters with patients, who may also have infectious illnesses or diseases.

Reliance on Hands

A surgeon's primary work tools are her hands. This presents concerns on a daily basis. While you can't spend your whole life worrying about injury or health issues, surgeons suffer greatly from any damage or loss of dexterity in hands or wrists. Problems could lead to time off from work, and in the extreme, major injuries or chronic issues could cause you to have to retire and find another line of work.

Patient Expectations

Despite efforts to communicate with patients, surgeons often comment on the frustration that patients, and sometimes family, don't understand the risks of surgical procedures. A May 2011 article noted that plastic surgery brings in more than $10 billion for plastic surgeons each year. However, doctors note that patients often don't understand the risks of their quick beauty fix. Even though surgeons explain them and have patients sign waivers, expectations for a perfect experience are the norm. In critical or emergency situations, surgeons may have to deal with upset family members if surgery doesn't go well.


As a surgeon, you can expect to be sued at least once in a career by a patient or her family, according to an August 2011 study by "The New England Journal of Medicine." Surgeons face a higher rate of lawsuits than general physicians, and neurosurgeons experience the highest rate among all specialties. While the study noted that only 2 percent of medical lawsuits result in payments to plaintiffs, losing a major case could wipe you and your practice out financially.

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