Whether someone undergoes an outpatient procedure or a major surgery, there are always risks when going under the knife. One of the most serious risks is contracting an infection.
A doctor has a duty to conduct a safe procedure and perform thorough follow-up care, and a hospital has a duty to keep its facility clean and have post-operative procedures in place to keep their patients healthy and as safe as possible. Preventing infections is a key part of those duties.
Too often, patients come out of surgeries not only in pain but also with post-surgical infections. While doctors and hospitals may say infections following surgeries are routine, we know that some post-surgical infections are the result of contaminated treating environments or negligent medical care.
Types of Post-Operative Infections
Hospital acquired infections mainly occur from bacteria. Two of the most common types of infections following surgery are:
- Staph infection. Although the staph bacteria may be found in most hospitals, staph infections should be preventable with good medical care. Unfortunately, a staph infection can occur if a nurse fails to clean a patient’s incision, doesn’t change the wound dressing, or fails to change the sheets. Also, if the hospital room isn’t regularly cleaned or disinfected, a patient who contracts a staph infection may have a legal claim for negligent post-operative treatment. In a case of this nature, a patient is claiming he wouldn’t have suffered the infection if he had received the appropriate level of care following his surgery. Although staph infections are common hospital infections, there are cases in which medical negligence is to blame.
- Sepsis. Some patients show alarming symptoms even as they are still recovering from surgery. Those symptoms may include a fever of 101 or higher, unusually fast heart rate, elevated respiratory rate, inflammation, and elevated white blood cell count. These signs suggest that infection may have spread into the bloodstream and throughout the body. If this type of infection goes untreated, it can lead to sepsis and septic shock. Sadly, sepsis can cause internal organs to shut down and even lead to death.
Factors That Affect Surgical Infections
There are so many factors that play a part in whether a patient suffers from a post-surgical infection. Generally, post-surgical infections fall into one of the following three categories:
- Medical error. Whether a patient has knee surgery, elbow surgery, back surgery, or another type of surgery, a surgeon may make a mistake that could lead to an infection. Also, infections can occur as a result of poor care used in catheterizations, intubations, and other invasive procedures.
- Unsanitary conditions. Hospitals are supposed to have clean operating rooms, hospital rooms, and medical equipment. Sheets are supposed to be changed daily and rooms are supposed to be disinfected regularly so that patients don’t contract infections. Infections can even occur because medical personnel fail to wash their hands or properly sterilize medical devices and equipment.
- Bad reaction. A person may have a bad reaction to a surgery and an infection follows that may have been unavoidable—as it could have been one’s own natural reaction.
Although a hospital or doctor will often attempt to blame a surgical infection on the body’s natural reaction to a surgery, in many cases surgical infections could have been avoided and are not caused by the body’s own reaction. This may mean medical negligence could have occurred. Even if it seems like it would be difficult to prove medical malpractice in surgical infection cases, it can be done.
Medical Malpractice Can Cause Surgical Infections
In order to establish that medical negligence was to blame for your surgical infection, several things need to be proven:
- The doctor or hospital owed you a legal duty. A mere doctor-patient relationship will suffice.
- There was a breach in the duty of care on the part of your doctor, medical care team, or hospital. This is the negligence that occurred to you as the patient.
- The breach or negligence was the direct cause of your surgical infection. This means you wouldn’t have received an infection if the doctor or hospital would have provided the appropriate level of care.
- The breach in the standard of care caused you some type of harm (e.g., financial, physical, or mental harm). For instance, lost wages, additional medical bills, counseling expenses, and even pain and suffering can all be damages you incurred due to the breach in the standard of care you received.
If you feel that the infection you suffered following surgery was the direct result of unsanitary conditions, poor medical care, or another act of negligence, you may be able to hold the medical provider or hospital negligent. We would be honored to help you seek justice and just compensation for the wrongs you suffered. Feel free to give our office a call or contact us online for a free consultation.