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Complications of Head and Neck Surgery

Robert W. Cantrell, MD
JAMA. 1980;243(22):2341-2342. doi:10.1001/jama.1980.03300480059036.
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Complications after treatment are something most physicians would rather not think about. Most competent physicians recognize that untoward effects can occur with any therapy and strive to minimize or eliminate them. This has always been true, but interest in complications and their prevention has assumed greater importance with the increase in litigation for medical misadventures. Rising expectation on the part of patients is one reason for this increased litigation. In the past, patients were often grateful just to emerge alive from anesthesia for a minor surgical procedure. Now patients having major surgery expect little or no sequelae, minimal scarring, and a successful outcome. We, as physicians, have become victims of our own success.

Major complications occur every day. Occasionally neither the physician nor the patient will recognize them immediately. John Conley, an eminent head and neck surgeon, recognizes that complications may befall the finest surgeon, irrespective of training or expertise.


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