Can You Sue for a Post-Surgery Infection?

March 14, 2024 / RP Legal

Every year, between one and two million patients will develop a post-surgical infection that could increase the amount of time that they need to spend in the hospital and may put their life in danger.

There is a possibility that you may have a medical malpractice lawsuit if you have developed a post-surgical infection. A plaintiff would need to prove that a medical professional failed to uphold their own duty of care.

The Columbia medical malpractice attorneys at Rikard & Protopapas can get to the bottom of your case and help determine whether you may have grounds for a surgical error lawsuit.

How Hospitals Should Prevent Post-Surgical Infections

Hospitals must have strict infection control practices, especially given the vulnerability of patients to post-surgical conditions.

Everything starts with training employees in safe practices. They need to both keep the overall conditions at the hospital clean and sanitary. One study has found that up to 60% of post-surgical infections are preventable.

Hospitals may be able to prevent infections by:

  • Ensuring that each employee practices good individual hygiene, especially when they are around an employee
  • Implementing written and other procedures for employees and medical personnel to follow
  • Providing employees with sufficient personal protective equipment to keep them from transmitting any germs
  • Making sure that all medical equipment that staff uses is kept completely sterile
  • Maintaining effective barriers against transmission of infections, before, during and after surgery
  • Continuously monitoring patients’ conditions and ordering immediate and sufficient medical interventions when they begin to show signs of an infection

How Hospital Practices Can Cause a Post-Surgical Infection

Roughly one in every 25 patients will develop a post-surgical infection in the hospital. Even though there are clear sanitary standards for cleanliness to keep patients from developing an infection, they are not always followed by hospital staff.

Patients may develop post-surgical infections from some of the following unsafe practices:

  • Staff failing to wash their hands frequently and before coming into contact with patients
  • An unsanitary environment in the hospital allowing germs to spread through the air
  • Failure to keep the surgery site clean and disinfected
  • Failure to properly sanitize surgical equipment before using on a patient
  • Defective medical equipment that allows the surfaces to conduct bacteria

Types of Post-Surgical Infections

Patients can develop a serious infection after surgery, especially because their immune systems are already in a weakened state. Patients could develop the following post-surgical infections:

  • Incision infections occur just below the skin in the area where the surgery occurred
  • Deep incisional infections reach the muscle and the tissue surrounding the muscles beneath the surgical site incision
  • Organ or space post-surgical infections affect an area away from where the surgery occurred

The Major Medical Risks of a Post-Surgical Infection

When a patient develops a post-surgical infection, it must be treated immediately to keep it from becoming worse.

The patient is already looking at a longer hospital stay. They may likely receive antibiotic treatment to control and reduce the infection. If the infection becomes particularly severe, the patient may need one or more surgical procedures.

A major risk is that the patient may develop sepsis as a result of the post-surgical infection.

Sepsis is when the body’s attempts to fight the infection cause the immune system to turn on the rest of the body. Sepsis may cause multiple organ failure because the immune system may attack vital internal organs.

The patient may go into septic shock, which is when the blood pressure drops perilously low.

Roughly 3% of patients who develop a post-surgical infection will die.

Post-Surgical Infections Can Be Medical Malpractice

Post-surgical infections should not happen. There is a strong chance that someone else may be to blame for a post-surgical infection. A victim may be able to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against the hospital where they developed the infection.

A medical malpractice lawsuit involving post-surgical infection requires you to prove that someone was negligent. In medical malpractice cases, negligence means that a medical professional did something that would be considered unreasonable under the circumstances.

They would fail to act as an ordinary hospital would in treating a patient after a surgical procedure.

Proving Medical Malpractice in a Surgical Infection Case

There is always a challenge in proving negligence in any type of medical malpractice case.

The fact that you have developed a post-surgical infection is not proof of negligence in itself. You may learn the source of the infection from a combination of samples and other types of tests.

Then, your attorney can work with medical expert witnesses to understand what may have gone wrong to cause the infection. The expert witnesses may give their opinion about what practices in that particular hospital may have been unsafe.

Further, your lawyer may be able to speak to witnesses and obtain hospital records during the discovery process. The hospital would deny that their actions were responsible for the post-surgical infection, and you would need evidence that proves their denial to be wrong.

Post-surgical infection cases are not always easy to win, but you may be entitled to substantial financial compensation if you are successful.

Contact Surgical Error Attorney in Columbia, SC

If you or a loved one were injured by medical malpractice, you may have a potential lawsuit against the doctor and hospital responsible for what happened. First, you need to contact an experienced medical malpractice lawyer to investigate what happened and gather the evidence that would prove you are entitled to compensation.

The attorneys at Rikard & Protopapas regularly take up cases against South Carolina doctors and hospitals on behalf of our clients. To schedule a free initial consultation, you can send us a message through our website or call us today at 803-978-6111. You pay us nothing unless you receive a settlement or jury award in your case.

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