Top Five Problems after Surgery in Florida

Top-Five-Problems-after-Surgery-ImageProblems after a surgical procedure, or “postoperative complications,” are more common than one might think. These problems can lead to longer hospital stays, readmission to the hospital, additional surgery or – in the worst cases – an untimely death.

A 2002 study of the 30-day post-operative death rate at the Department of Surgery, University of Virginia Health Systems, found 23 patient deaths (19.3 percent of all post-operative deaths) that indicated an adverse event as the cause of the death. Of those deaths in which an adverse event was suspected, 65.2 percent followed an error in medical care and were potentially preventable.

A separate study published in September 2012 in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons reviewed 1,442 general surgery patients and found 163 (11.3 percent) were readmitted to the hospital within 30 days of discharge. “Postoperative complications appear to drive readmissions in surgical patients,” researchers said.

More recently, in 2021, the BMC Surgery peer-reviewed journal published an analysis showing that the number of postoperative complications had remained steady from 2012 to 2018, showing little sign of decreasing. Among the most common surgery complications in that period were sepsis, superficial infections, organ infections, urinary tract infections, and pneumonia.

Different types of surgery can lead to different post-operative complications. However, many post-operative problems tend to arise more frequently.

At Philip DeBerard, Injury Attorney, we have identified the following five top problems after surgery that patients and their families should learn more about.

1. Infection

Infections after surgery – particularly at the site of incision – are by far the most frequently encountered post-operative problem. The 2021 BMC Surgery review found 87,453 cases of superficial infection, 76,996 cases of internal infection, and 75,968 cases of urinary tract infection within the five-year study period.

Unsanitary conditions or equipment or mistakes made during surgery can lead to post-operative infection. Gastrointestinal surgery such as a bowel resection, for example, can lead to infection if done in a rushed or otherwise negligent manner.

A slight fever is common after surgery. However, a fever with a body temperature above 101 degrees may indicate that you have an infection. Drainage from the incision site or red streaks on your skin near the incision may also indicate infection.

2. Pneumonia

According to the BMC Surgery 2021 analysis, there were 69,067 cases of postoperative pneumonia in the US from 2012 to 2018.

Hospital-acquired pneumonia (HAP) often develops in patients who are put on ventilators after surgery. Endotracheal intubation with mechanical ventilation poses the greatest overall risk of ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP), according to the Merck Manual.

3. Thrombosis / Thromboembolic Events

The BMC Surgery paper found more than 33,000 cases of deep-vein thrombosis and thrombo-phlebitis as postoperative complications in the US between 2012 and 2018.

Thrombosis is the formation of a blood clot (thrombus) inside a blood vessel. If it occurs in a vein, it’s specifically called thrombo-phlebitis. When this clotting occurs, it obstructs the flow of blood through the circulatory system. And when a blood clot breaks off and travels through the bloodstream before lodging at another site, it is known as a “thromboembolism” or a “thromboembolic event.”

Surgery can slow blood flow, increasing the risk of blood clots, the Mayo Clinic says. General anesthetics used during surgery can make your veins wider (dilated), which can increase the risk of blood pooling and then clotting.

Deep-vein thrombosis (DVT), which can be caused by prolonged bed rest such as during a long hospital stay, can lead to pulmonary embolism. This is a potentially deadly blood clot in the lung(s). Severe leg pain is an indication of DVT.

4. Hemorrhage (Bleeding)

Some bleeding during or after surgery is anticipated and acceptable. But inappropriate bleeding may be caused by inadequately repairing blood vessels cut during surgery, mistakenly piercing an adjacent organ during surgery or injuring other organs or structures of the body during surgery or during the post-operative period. Infection can also damage vessels at the operation site and cause hemorrhaging. Undiagnosed and/or uncontrolled internal bleeding can lead to shock and a variety of other potentially deadly problems.

5. Inability to Urinate / Move Bowels

The inability to urinate after surgery is a serious complication. It may lead to kidney damage if it is not treated immediately.

Abdominal surgery, general anesthesia, pain medications and fluids given by IV during surgery can combine to cause neurogenic bladder, which is a type of bladder dysfunction in which the bladder does not receive signals from the brain to empty itself. A surgical error, such as accidentally severing one of the tubes that transport urine, can also cause the problem.

Constipation, the inability to pass feces or difficulty doing so, is a common complication of surgery. Surgery patients are often given stool softeners to prevent constipation. The strain caused by constipation can cause undue stress to surgical incision sites. For heart surgery patients, it can cause dangerous changes in heart rhythm.

Constipation can progress to impaction, which is when the stool is so hard and dry that a bowel movement is impossible. In severe cases, constipation can lead to enough damage that segments of the intestine must be removed.

Contact a Florida Medical Malpractice Lawyer for Legal Help with Post-Operative Problems

Post-operative surgical complications can put your health at risk for years to come and result in additional medical expenses as well as loss of income during a lengthened recovery period.

If you or someone close to you has suffered from post-operative complications caused by the negligence of a surgeon, doctor, nurse, hospital or another health care provider, the medical malpractice lawyers of Philip DeBerard, Injury Attorney, are on your side. We are committed to helping victims of medical negligence throughout South Florida and have offices in Stuart, Port St. Lucie, Vero Beach, Okeechobee, Palm Beach Gardens and West Palm Beach.

Call us today at our toll-free number or take a moment to complete our online form to schedule a free and confidential review of your case.



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