Surgical Error

Medical Errors

The Danger of Common Surgical Site Infections

December 21, 2015 by James McHugh, Jr.

To many people, surgery is scary; naturally, people are extremely nervous at the prospect of being cut open and repaired in some way. However, the prospect of complications after surgery can transform the frightening nature of surgery into something downright terrifying. Among the most common complications that show following surgery are surgical site infections, or SSIs.

People are right to be terrified of that. While not all surgical complications are related to surgical infections, according to research from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 200 people die from hospital infections every day. One reason this is a concern when it comes to surgery is because the skin acts as a natural barrier to infection and surgery causes a break in the skin. Whenever someone has any kind of surgery, the chance of developing an SSI is between 1 and 3 percent.

SSIs usually present within 30 days of surgery, and the CDC has identified three types:

  • Superficial incisional SSIs occur in the area in which the surgical incision was made.
  • Deep incisional SSIs occur in the muscle tissue and fascia, which is the tissue immediately surrounding the muscles.
  • Organ SSIs can occur in any part of the body besides the skin, muscle and fascia that was involved in the surgery; usually in a body organ or in a space between organs.

The most common causes of surgical site infections are bacteria like Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, or Pseudomonas, which usually infect a surgical wound through contact with a contaminated caregiver or, quite often, a contaminated surgical instrument. Sometimes, the contamination can occur through the air or the contaminant is already present on the patient’s body, where it can then spread into the wound.

There is a link between a patient’s risk for a SSI and how a surgical wound is classified. Clean wounds, which are neither inflamed nor contaminated and which don’t include operating on an internal organ, have an infection risk of less than two percent, whereas the risk for a clean-contaminated wound, for which there is no evidence of infection, but which involves operating on an internal organ, entails a risk of less than 10 percent. Contaminated wounds, which involve surgery on an internal organ, where its contents may spill into the wound, raises the risk of infection to 13-20 percent, whereas a dirty wound, in which a known infection is present during surgery, means an SSI risk of about 40 percent.

What To Do If You Are At Risk For Surgical Infections

Whenever you suspect an infection around the wound site, speak with a doctor immediately; infection can easily become septic and many people die from a SSI.

Some of the symptoms and signs that an SSI is present can include:

  • Delayed healing
  • Redness, swelling, and extreme tenderness and pain in the wound area
  • Persistent fever
  • “Purulent discharge,” pus coming from the wound area

Regardless of the cause, hospitals have a duty to do everything in their power to limit the likelihood of SSI to the extent possible and many hospitals have very strong protocols in place to do just that. Many, if not most, surgical site infections are easily preventable when those involved in the surgery follow hospital protocols that are in place. Most SSIs happen through medical negligence, perhaps because a surgeon rushes through the surgery and fails to follow proper wound source management procedures. The risks also rise whenever someone providing care is either unqualified or untrained.

Philadelphia Lawyers For Surgical Site Infections

Whenever a hospital or any medical company has been negligent, they are responsible for the results of that negligence. If you or a loved one are suffering or have suffered from the effects of a surgical site infection, it is usually the hospital’s fault and you should contact a highly skilled surgery malpractice attorney as soon as possible to explore your options and recover for your losses. Call Lopez McHugh LLP for a free consultation to discover how we can help you protect your rights under the law.

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