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When Surgery Leaves You Injured

By Grant Law Office on November 15, 2019

two surgeons in an operating room

Surgery is often the last resort to resolve a medical condition, because going under the knife always carries a risk of complications, from anesthesia awareness to surgical site infections.

However, we can honestly say that surgery should never carry the following types of complications. These would be classed as never events, and if anything like this ever happens to you or a loved one, you should call an Atlanta medical malpractice attorney right away.

Grant Law Office has handled egregious errors, but we are always running up against new ways that medical providers have found to cut corners and deny their responsibility. Scientific literature has indicated that if healthcare providers would just own up to their mistakes and apologize, showing that they wanted to make things right for the victims, they would not be sued nearly as often.

But until the “cone of silence” fades away, American medicine will continue to punish patients for doctors’ mistakes.

Negligent surgical preparations

Communication is vital to a smooth operation, and checklists are increasingly being used before surgery to keep everyone on the same page. But not always. Our colleague handed a case involving a cervical spinal surgery in which the patient’s eyes were not properly taped shut. As the surgical team used a cleanser to clean her neck, the substance went into her eyes – she is now blind in both eyes.

Recently, a patient safety advocate wrote about her own scare during a right ankle replacement. The anesthesiologist decided to use a peripheral nerve block behind the knee for post-operative pain, and injected bupivacaine. Within minutes, the patient had a grand mal seizures and full cardiac arrest. Surgeons had to crack her chest to save her life. Later, they found out the anesthesia went into vascular system instead of nervous system, causing the damage.

Another danger is the hospital failing to sterilize surgical implements. There is a lawsuit currently unfolding in Colorado over a hospital that used contaminated water to wash its surgical tools, exposing back-surgery patients to all sorts of bloodborne pathogens; hepatitis and HIV specifically.

Poor surgical positioning

We had a client who was having a colectomy (removal of part of the colon). She was positioned in an upside-down, Trendelenburg position – supine, face-up, with her feet at a level above the head – for over seven hours. In this time, she sustained a brachial plexus injury, which caused permanent nerve damage, and she has no longer has use of her dominant arm.

In addition, other dangers during the surgery itself include a fire breaking out, surgeons operating on the wrong site of the body, and surgeons leaving foreign objects inside their patients. Sponges and gauze are the usual culprits, but there was a notable case where a surgeon left a scalpel inside his patient.

Poor aftercare

A personal case involving Dr. David Blumenthal, a patient-safety expert and president of the Commonwealth Fund, was recently shared on Modern Healthcare. Mr. Blumenthal’s 88-year-old father underwent brain surgery at a prominent hospital to remove an abscess, which was successful. But while recovering in the neuro ICU by himself, he fell and suffered a traumatic brain injury, which would take a year to claim his life.

Other dangers in the post-operative period include compartment syndrome and sepsis, an uncontrolled bodily reaction to an infection. We have also seen patients seriously burned in an MRI because metal is left in their bodies, and healthcare providers do not check for it beforehand. These things should not be happening when a patient is checked in to a hospital, supposedly with access to 24-hour medical care.

What Can Be Done After a Surgical Error?

Ideally, every medical error would be brought to the open with an admission of guilt. Then, medical providers and oversight committees together would examine what happened, see how it could have been prevented, and put procedures in place to prevent it next time. But that is rarely what happens. Hospitals circle the wagons and pretend that such an outcome couldn’t have been avoided, all to avoid paying the victims what they are rightfully owed.

At Grant Law Office, our Georgia surgical complications lawyer has handled many such claims. Call (404) 995-3955 for a free consultation about your situation. We take personal injury cases on a contingency-fee basis and only take our percentage after we have won you a fair settlement or jury verdict.

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Posted in: Medical Malpractice

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*Wayne Grant has been practicing law since 1979. Grant Law Office was founded in 2000.