Scheduling a surgical procedure is extremely stressful. You likely have concerns about how the procedure will go. Will it be successful? Will I experience complications on the table? Are my surgeon and surgical team experienced and ready? The truth is, for some patients, even when the procedure goes completely as planned, any errors made before or after surgery can result in harm to the patient, and a potential medical malpractice action.
An act of medical malpractice can be set into motion even before your surgery procedure begins. A variety of errors, failure to act, or inform can all lead to preventable mistakes that can cause serious harm to a patient. Following are some common pre- and post-operative errors related to medical malpractice.
Failure to perform proper pre-surgical evaluation
Not every patient responds to the same procedure in the same way, which is why it is important for medical professionals to evaluate a patient’s medical history, any medications, and current condition. A patient must be at least healthy enough to undergo the surgical procedure, and the surgeon must reasonably know that the surgery will not worsen any other medical condition.
Without gaining an understanding of their patient’s medical history, medications, allergies, and current condition, a surgeon might miss critical details that could affect their upcoming procedure. Overlooking even one of these details could result in a tragic, and preventable, event during surgery.
Incorrect or inadequate pre-surgery information
Hospitals and medical personnel must ensure even the most basic information regarding a surgical procedure is verified multiple times. Although rare, there are instances where a surgeon will operate on the wrong body part. This most often occurs because the surgeon received incorrect information from their medical team. Your surgical team should, multiple times, on the day of your surgery, confirm your identity, why you are having surgery, and on what part of your body. This should also be noted on your medical chart and surgical documents.
Many surgeons and medical personnel will, in your presence, physically mark the part of the body upon which the procedure will occur to ensure everyone is informed.
Lack of post-operative monitoring
After surgery, patients go to the recovery room for post-operative care. This is where doctors and nurses monitor patients as anesthesia wears off and watch for any post-surgical complications. Patients may also receive medication to control pain. Because surgery is an invasive procedure, medical staff should monitor patients’ vital signs afterward, as well as be alert for issues like:
- Adverse drug reactions
- Blood clots
- Blood pressure irregularities
- Cardiac arrest
- Oxygen deprivation
- Signs of infection
Monitoring a patient post-surgery is especially critical, as they are typically unconscious or semi-conscious.
A post-operative infection (or surgical site infection) most often occurs due to improper patient monitoring after surgery. Identifying the signs of infection early allows a physician to treat it in its early stages, preventing it from causing further injury to a patient. However, when hospital and medical staff are negligent in monitoring and diagnosing a surgical site infection, patients can suffer complications worse than the condition that necessitated the original procedure. The most common reason post-operative infections occur include improperly sterilized surgical tools or operating rooms.
Some patients may be more vulnerable to surgical site infections, like those with weakened immune systems. Surgeons and physicians should take this into consideration when monitoring their patients after surgical procedures.
Was my surgical injury from medical malpractice?
If you believe your surgical injury happened because of medical malpractice, talk to an experienced attorney as soon as possible. The Virginia statute of limitations on malpractice actions is two years. To prove malpractice in Virginia, you and your attorney must show that your doctor failed to provide a reasonable standard of care, and that failure resulted in your injuries.
This entails showing that your doctor did not just make a mistake, but that they acted in a negligent manner. Surgery does come with risks, but it is important to know the difference between acceptable and unacceptable risks. To prove medical malpractice, your attorney will demonstrate the following points:
- Your surgeon or medical professional owed you what’s called a “duty of care,” meaning as a physician, it is his or her professional duty to keep you safe from harm
- The surgeon failed to meet this duty of care, according to medical standards
- This failure caused you injury
- Those injuries caused you compensable losses
Many patients believe that they do not have the right to take legal action after a surgical injury, due to the many documents and waivers they sign before their procedure. However, these waivers do not apply to negligence and malpractice.
Consulting with a Richmond malpractice attorney about your procedure can help determine whether your injuries were preventable, and exactly how they occurred.
At Phelan Petty, we have decades of combined experience protecting the rights of patients after they suffer harm from medical malpractice. We demand accountability from negligent surgeons and hospitals, and work to ensure you secure full compensation for your injuries and losses. Contact us today to find out how we can help you. You can reach us by phone at 804-980-7100, or fill out our contact form. We serve Richmond and the surrounding areas.
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Since 2004, Jonathan Petty has applied the deep knowledge and experience he gained working on the defense side of litigation to represent ordinary people injured by car accidents and truck accidents, medical malpractice, and defective products in Virginia. He has successfully tried medical malpractice and personal injury cases to verdict in courts throughout Virginia, and he has handled cases on behalf of both plaintiffs and defendants in state and federal courts across the country.