According to a recent study in the Journal of Patient Safety, between 210,000 and 440,000 people die each year in the U.S. due to preventable medical mistakes in hospitals. If this staggering number is accurate, medical errors are now the third-leading cause of death in the nation, outpaced only by heart disease and cancer. A Chicago personal injury lawyer understands that the best way for patients to avoid becoming victims of these errors is to become educated about them. Patients should consider the following eight medical mistakes that they are likely to face when they seek treatment.
- Medication errors
When patients receive the wrong prescription, or the right prescription in the wrong dose, a medication error has occurred. These occurrences are often known as adverse drug events and they can be incredibly dangerous. According to the Mayo Clinic, many medication errors are caused by improper use of digital medical records software, inefficient intake practices at hospitals and a lack of communication between healthcare providers.
- Hospital-acquired pneumonia
If patients develop pneumonia 48 to 72 hours after being admitted to the hospital for treatment of a non-pneumonia condition, they have developed hospital-acquired pneumonia. When patients contract the disease, the air sacs of their lungs fill with pus, preventing them from breathing properly. This serious condition is the second most common hospital-acquired infection in U.S. hospitals. Most cases are caused by bacteria, although some can be viral in nature. Anywhere from 10 to 50 percent of patients die from the disease.
- Deep Vein Thrombosis
A deep vein thrombosis occurs when a blood clot forms in one of the deep veins in the body, usually in the legs but occasionally in the arms. This clot can block the flow of blood to that area of the body, causing cell death and the potential need for amputation. Additionally, if the blood clot breaks off, it may become a pulmonary embolism, where it blocks a blood vessel in the lungs. The condition is often fatal.
Patients who have been at the hospital for an extended period of time and those who undergo surgery are at an increased risk of developing DVT. Doctors often use body positioning techniques and give patients blood thinners and special compression stockings to wear to help prevent the condition from occurring.
- Surgical site infections
Potentially dangerous surgical site infections are a common occurrence following surgery. Anywhere that the body is cut during a procedure can become infected if not kept properly cleaned and bandaged. The infection may be superficial, affecting only the skin, or it may involve deeper tissues and organs. Proper hand sanitation techniques can help prevent these infections from occurring.
- Wrong site surgery
When doctors perform surgeries on the wrong side or site of patients’ bodies, or fail to perform the correct surgeries on the correct patients, they are guilty of wrong site surgery. This is an unpardonable medical mistake that should never occur. A Chicago personal injury lawyer understands how devastating these potentially dangerous and life-altering surgeries can be. They often occur when surgical teams fail to follow surgical and hospital policy prior to a procedure.
- Unsafe medical devices
Medical devices are often used in an attempt to help patients. However, these devices can and do cause some patients harm. Transvaginal mesh, for example, is often used to fix pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence in women. However, these devices can cause infection, erosion of tissue in the vagina, and even organ perforation.
Another device that often causes more harm than good is the inferior vena cava filter. This small device is designed to catch blood clots before they can turn into pulmonary emboli. However, they often come loose or perforate the inferior vena cava wall.
- Unintended retained foreign objects
During surgery, doctors use many tools and sponges to aid them in their tasks. Unfortunately, sometimes these objects are accidentally left inside patients after surgery has been completed. Sponges are the most common unintended retained foreign objects, although patients do occasionally suffer from having scalpels, scissors and other obvious objects left inside of them following surgery. A report by the Joint Commission states that between 2005 and 2012, 772 incidences of URFOs have been reported, 16 of which were fatal. Nearly all cases resulted in an extended hospital stay and additional costs for treatment.
- Central line-associated bloodstream infections
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, central line-associated bloodstream infections occur around 30,000 times each year. A CLABSI is an infection in the central line, or central venous catheter. This catheter is placed in a large vein in the leg, neck or chest so that medical staff can give medication and fluids easily, and for collecting blood for testing. Due to the positioning of the line so close to the heart, patients can face serious consequences if an infection becomes severe. When this catheter is not inserted correctly, or is not properly maintained, infection can set in. All healthcare providers should use sterile techniques when handling the catheter to prevent these potentially deadly infections from occurring.
Those who take an active role in their health care are less likely to become victims of these errors. Patients who have experienced any of these medical injuries should contact a Chicago personal injury lawyer. With an attorney’s help, families may be able to receive the closure and compensation that they need in order to move on from their injuries and reclaim their lives.