When we go to the hospital, we expect the very best care and treatment from doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals. Unfortunately, even routine surgeries or treatments can result in serious, life-threatening infections if the standard of care is not followed by the hospital staff.
The standard of care is a legal doctrine doctors are expected to follow when caring for patients and covers not only what procedures doctors should follow during a surgery but how patients should be monitored afterward to prevent serious infections. For medical negligence cases, a patient must prove that his or her injuries were caused as a result of the fact that a medical professional deviated from the ordinary standard of care that another medical professional in the same field, under the same circumstances, would have used.
When it comes to hospital acquired infections, one easily-preventable way infections occur in hospital settings is the use of improperly sterilized surgical instruments. Doctors spend a great deal of time scrubbing their hands prior to surgery to kill any bacteria that can make a patient sick. However, sterilization does not stop there and in fact everything else, including the surgery room itself needs to be treated for malicious bacteria. MRSA and staph infections are just some of the deadly types of conditions patients can develop when hospitals fail to account for these common and well-known bacteria.
Additionally, many surgical instruments like scalpels, sutures, and clamps are reusable and need to be properly cleaned with approved sterilization techniques. Simple procedures like endoscopies can infect patients with “superbugs” when equipment is not cleaned properly.
Even water coming in from outside hospital buildings and the plumbing used to carry it need to be sterilized to ensure waterborne bacteria does not infect vulnerable patients like newborn infants. While patients may not know just how many ways infections can develop, doctors and hospitals are under an obligation to take these potential dangers into account and take proper steps to mitigate infection.
Sepsis and Post-Surgical Infections May Be the Hospital's Fault
Whether we like to admit it or not, bacteria is present on almost everything. Proper sterilization techniques can go a long way to prevent infections. Moreover, not every infection becomes a deadly situation and doctors need to properly monitor their patients for signs and symptoms of infection before the patient becomes septic.
Sepsis is one of the most serious forms infection can take. Essentially, sepsis is an infection so serious that bacteria enters the bloodstream and spreads throughout the body. Sepsis and septic shock can cause organ failure and low blood pressure, two very serious complications for post-surgical patients.
Medical professionals are expected to monitor patients at high risk for infections by keeping tabs on their vital signs and taking corrective action should complications arise. One widely accepted technique is the Quick Sepsis-related Organ Failure Assessment Score (qSOFA) to swiftly identify the early signs of sepsis.
The three criteria for qSOFA are:
- Low blood pressure
- High respiratory rate
- Changes in consciousness
Patients showing two out of three qSOFA criteria need to be dealt with quickly to prevent septic infections from spreading. IV antibiotics, fluids, and general antibiotics are just some of the treatments doctors need to implement immediately to prevent infections from becoming a life-threatening condition.
A patient who contracted sepsis or another infection after surgery should strongly consider speaking to an experienced medical malpractice attorney to discuss his or her legal rights. Many times, hospitals are less than forthcoming about the details of medical malpractice and patients need legal representation to recover financial compensation for the harm they suffered at the hands of negligent parties.