Negligence can Cause Dangerous Post-Surgical Infections
When surgery is performed, there is always a chance for infection to occur because of the invasive nature of the procedure. Opening up any part of the body gives bacteria and all manner of nasty things a chance to enter the body and do harm. Because of this, surgeons and other medical care providers make the reduction of possible vectors of infection a priority.
Sanitation of where the surgery takes place and the recovery areas, proper antibiotic prescriptions, and sanitary surgical procedure all are observed in order to minimize the chance of an infection in the surgical site. Occasionally, an infection can occur despite these precautions but the chances are slim. If an infection does occur, it’s important not to discount the possibility that perhaps something was not done to minimize the chances of an infection.
If a medical care provider was negligent in taking all the precautions necessary in preventing a surgical site infection then they may be liable in a medical malpractice claim where you can seek compensation for the injuries you sustained.
What is a Surgical Site Infection
Sometimes called a post-surgery infection, a surgical site infection is an infection that occurs after surgery in the part of the body where the surgery took place. Surgery requires the breaking of your skin which acts as the natural barrier between the sensitive inner organs of your body and dangerous germs from outside. Different organs of the human body also contain certain germs that can cause infections when they leave an organ.
The most common of outside germs to cause damage are the bacteria Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, and Pseudomonas that each lead to serious health complications in their own right. These germs can cause infections ranging from superficial surface skin infections to life threatening major organ infections.These surgical site infections can generally be split into three categories.
Superficial incisional SSI – This infection occurs just in the area of the skin where the incision was made.
Deep incisional SSI – This infection occurs beneath the incision area in muscle and the tissues surrounding the muscles.
Organ or space SSI – This type of infection can be in any area of the body other than skin, muscle, and surrounding tissue that was involved in the surgery. This includes a body organ or a space between organs.
Surgical Site Infection Symptoms
A surgical site infection generally takes about 15-30 days to occur. In this time, germs will start to cause all kinds of damage to the infected area resulting in the following symptoms.
Hot incision site – when an incision site is hot to the touch this can indicate that there is an infection being fought. This happens because the body is sending blood cells to the site of infection to fight it which heats up the area..
Swelling/hardening of the incision site – An infected incision can begin to harden and swell up as the tissue in the area becomes inflamed. The actual incision can also take on a puffy or swollen appearance as well.
Redness – An incision that gets red, or has red streaks radiating from it to the surrounding skin may be infected. A little redness is normal at the incision site, but it should decrease over time, rather than becoming redder as the incision heals.
Drainage from the incision – Pus or drainage with a foul smell might begin to accumulate on an infected incision site. Its color can range from yellow to red or green and even white. It can also vary in viscosity from thin and watery to thick and chunky.
Pain – As you heal, the pain that you may have initially felt after surgery should gradually decrease as you heal. If it does the opposite and increases then an infection may be developing. Be aware of how much activity you are engaging in and the prescription amounts you are taking since fluctuations in them can cause pain increases. Make sure these are not to blame before suspecting an infection.
Pain during urination – Urinary tract infections are a common problem after surgery. Burning during urination, having to urinate frequently, and lower abdominal pain can indicate there is a problem with your urinary tract because of a surgical site infection.
Fatigue – Fighting an infection can take a great deal of energy from your body. Post surgery recovery can also take a great deal of energy from your body and make you feel fatigued but if it keeps getting worse then it can indicate an infection draining your energy.
Fever – One of your body’s mechanisms for fighting an infection is heating up with fever. If you have a high temperature and feel feverish then you could possibly be fighting off a surgical site infection.
Surgical site Infection Causes
As said before, the primary cause of a surgical site infection is germs. How these germs make it to places where they can cause an infection depends on several different factors. The most obvious is the sanitation of a surgical wound. Germs can come into contact with an open surgery wound through a variety of vectors.
- Germs that already exist on the surface of your body
- Germs from within your body in certain organs that can spread through surgery or because of a wound
- Airborne germs
- Germs that can exist on the surface of medical tools like surgical instruments or even on hospital equipment used for recovery
- Germs that can be on the surface of a medical care provider that comes into contact with a surgical site. The hands being of the highest risk.
The most common way for a surgical site to become infected is not from outside germs but germs from within the body. Our body has several organs that house germs that can cause infection if exposed to other parts of the body. Sometimes a surgery may open up these organs and allow these germs to spill out. Usually this avoided with the proper surgical technique but there is always a chance for human error to occur.
Less common is infection from germs outside the body but this kind of infection is still a serious risk. These vectors of infection have their chance of successfully infecting a surgical site if
- The surgical site is not kept sanitary
- Surgery is performed with unsanitary tools
- The medical care provider does not take the proper sanitary precautions by wearing the proper surgical equipment like gloves and a mask
- The medical care provider does not observe the proper sanitary procedures such as washing hands
- The surgery and recuperation is done in an unsanitary setting
- The surgeon uses improper technique or makes an error like leaving an instrument in the site
Factors that can increase the risk of a surgical site infection
- Smoking and other tobacco use
- Poorly controlled diabetes
- Weak immune system
- Corticosteroids use
- Surgery that lasts longer than 2 hours
- Very old or young age
- Cancer or any other serious health condition
- Surgery in bacteria rich locations in the abdomen
Surgical Site Infection Treatment
Luckily, a surgical site infection is treatable primarily with the use of antibiotics and other infection combatting procedures that focus on removing and curing the bacteria plagued tissue.
Surgical Site Infection Liability and Malpractice Claims
Around 27 million surgical procedures are performed in the United States each year, with up to 5 percent resulting in surgical site infections. If you are part of that 5 percent and have developed an infection at a surgical site then there is the possibility that certain parties like the surgeon or hospital can be held liable for your injury. What matters most is that you are able to prove that a medical care provider’s negligence caused an infection that otherwise would not have occurred.
Proving a Medical Care Provider was Negligent and Caused an Infection
In order to do this you must show that a medical care provider was negligent or breached the duty of care expected of them. Then it must be shown that this negligence or breach of duty was the direct cause of the surgical site infection.
In order to show that a medical care provider was negligent, the care that they provided is compared to the accepted standard of care. A standard of care is the expected level of care based on the level of care provided by a medical care provider’s peers.
Negligence and a medical care thats not up to expected standards can be shown through a doctor’s improper behavior or improper procedure that other doctors would not engage in. A hospital can be shown to be negligent through improper sanitation procedures or an unsanitary environment in breach of the expectations of an institution tasked with taking every precaution to prevent infection.
Damages in a Surgical Site Infection Claim
If this can be proven in a claim, then you will be able to receive compensation for the injuries sustained because of the infection which can be quite serious. Damages from a surgical site infection can include:
- Medical Bills
- Pain and Suffering
- Lost Wages
- Disability Damages
- Lost Wage Earning Ability
Surgical site infections can be life threatening and in some cases a patient may not survive. In this situation, a negligent medical care provider would be liable in a wrongful death claim in which compensation would be suitably changed to cover costs for funeral services, loss of income, spousal loss, etc.
Seek an Experienced Medical Malpractice Attorney
If you or a loved one have had a surgical site infection and believe it may be a surgeon or hospital’s fault, then do not hesitate to contact Dolman Law Group about receiving a free consultation. Our skilled lawyers have the expertise you will require to secure the settlement that you deserve.
Contact us at Dolman Law Group’s offices. Please call us at 727-451-6900.
Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765