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Medical Malpractice Blog

Technology can help to avoid surgical errors

Tools are available for surgeons in Arizona and elsewhere to achieve greater success in liver surgery while avoiding dangerous medical mistakes. The liver can be a particularly challenging site for operations, because the organ can be home to easily-shifting malignant tumors as well as major blood vessels.

A stylus can help surgeons to swab the liver during surgery to compare its current position to images captured earlier on a CT scan. This delicate process can represent an inaccurate picture of the liver, leading to surgical errors. Software developed at Vanderbilt University, however, helps to unite the data from the stylus with that from a CT scan to produce a unified image to help guide surgeons during delicate procedures.

Patients must manage health care to reduce medical errors

Admission to any hospital in Arizona exposes patients to the risk of infection. People should avoid hospitalization whenever feasible because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that hospital-acquired infections strike one in 25 patients every day. Medical errors like post-surgical infections and medication mistakes contribute to the approximately 250,000 deaths attributed to medical mistakes every year.

Medical safety experts recommend that people take proactive steps to prevent errors. This advice extends to family and friends, who should attend a hospitalized person in around-the-clock shifts to ensure continual monitoring of the care being provided. Everyone should wash their hands regularly and be willing to remind staff to use hand sanitizing foam. Patients should also ask questions during discharge and obtain written aftercare instructions to avoid missing important information.

What to know about spinal surgery cases

A study published in The Spine Journal took a look at malpractice cases involving spine surgeries from 2010 to 2014. The authors studied all 103 cases during that time period and adjusted financial awards based on 2016 values. On average, a case settled in Arizona or elsewhere resulted in $2.3 million for the plaintiff. If a plaintiff went to court and won, that person was given an average of $4.9 million by a jury.

In 34 percent of spine surgery malpractice cases, plaintiffs cited a lack of informed consent. In those cases, plaintiffs won an average of $2 million. If a case involved a complaint related to issues during the surgery itself, a plaintiff won an average of $3.6 million. Cases that involved orthopedic surgeons or nerve injuries to patients resulted in a higher level of compensation going to a plaintiff.

Beware of mild traumatic brain injuries after a car accident

When you experience a car accident, you may suffer a number of very serious injuries, some of which you may recognize easier than others. One of the most easily overlooked and dangerous injuries you can suffer is a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Despite the name, mild TBIs can leave you seriously injured, and may affect you for up to a year. A mild TBI is not always easy to identify or diagnose, which often leads to insufficient treatment until after significant damage occurs.

Jury awards misdiagnosed victim $28.9 million

Medical malpractice lawsuits in Arizona and around the country are sometimes filed after people have been harmed due to a missed or delayed diagnosis. Patients can suffer catastrophic consequences when doctors fail to identify potentially serious or even fatal conditions, and this can result in significant awards and settlements. One such case involves a Missouri woman who in May 2017 was awarded $28.9 million in damages after convincing a jury that her doctors had ignored her pleas to perform more tests.

The jury heard how the woman was left permanently disabled because of a rare condition called Wilson's disease that causes large amounts of copper to build up in the body. Reports indicate that the woman is unable to walk unassisted and relies on a feeding tube to provide her with nourishment. She claimed in her lawsuit that the disease, which can be deadly when allowed to worsen, could have been treated more effectively if her doctors had listened when she repeatedly asked them to perform neurological tests.

Jury awards man $870K for wrong-site surgery

Arizona patients may be interested to learn that, on June 14, a Pennsylvania man was awarded $870,000 after a surgeon removed the wrong testicle. The man had been scheduled to remove a testicle that had atrophied and was causing the man serious pain.

The man went to visit his surgeon in 2013 after having lived with pain in the testicle for 15 years. During the procedure, however, the surgeon removed the healthy testicle. The surgeon reportedly said that he had removed the testicle that was on the right side of the body but argued that the testicle had a spermatic cord that led to the other side. The man's attorney essentially said that the doctor stated that the testicles had switched sides at some point.

Legionnaires' disease linked to hospitals

Arizona patients may not be pleased to learn that, according to a study, one in five cases of Legionnaires disease could be linked to hospitals and other health care facilities. The study was conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and looked at health care facilities in 20 states.

Legionnaires' disease is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia that is caused by a bacteria called Legionella. This bacteria can grow in water storage systems such as tanks and pipes. In health care facilities, the bacteria can be spread through sinks, bathtubs and showers. In some cases, medical equipment that use water can also harbor the bacteria. Patients or nursing home residents who have a weakened immune system may be most at risk for Legionnaires' disease.

The dangers of blood thinners for nursing home patients

Anticoagulants such as Warfarin and Coumadin have been used since the 1940s to reduce the risk of stroke for those who have atrial fibrillation. While such drugs have the ability to prevent the formation of blood clots, they may be dangerous for those experience internal bleeding. Residents of nursing homes in Arizona and around the country may be especially vulnerable when given anticoagulants.

This is because they may not be administered properly, and patients may not be monitored for adverse reactions to such drugs. However, the dangers that drugs such as Coumadin may present may be overlooked as they are beneficial when used as intended. In one case an 89-year-old nursing home patient died because of an interaction between Coumadin and another medication that she was taking. Her death was caused by complications caused in part because doctors never monitored her blood while she was using the anticoagulant.

How to get physicians to admit their mistakes

Arizona residents may be aware that medical errors are one of the primary causes of fatalities in the United States. It is believed that up to 250,000 people die each year because of mistakes made by medical professionals. While efforts have been made to make it easier for medical professionals to acknowledge their errors, this may not be easy for everyone. However, doing so may increase patient safety and lead to better outcomes.

A paper published in Medical Education claims that training and education programs should focus on psychological issues related to errors and how they are disclosed. Doing so may decrease the number of mistakes that are made as well as their severity. Ultimately, this can help to improve outcomes for patients.

Unnecessary C-sections still commonplace in hospitals

Arizona parents-to-be may be interested in learning that approximately 1.3 million children are delivered via cesarean sections every single year. This figure equates to about a third of all children born each year. Yet, according to a study released in January 2017, the vast majority of women wish to deliver their children vaginally.

An investigation of approximately 1,300 hospitals across the U.S. found that the hospital a woman chooses to deliver her child in can be a deciding factor in whether she receives a C-section. Although there are cases where this procedure is necessary, most pregnancies are low risk and do not require it. Surgical births do have carry risks that could affect the mother and child. In fact, research shows that C-sections cause approximately 20,000 major complications every year, which can include sepsis, organ injury and hemorrhage. Additionally, the surgery can also dramatically increase a new mother's medical expenses.

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