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Surgery: What are your risks?

Written by Ankin Law Office

Most Chicago patients are aware that no surgery is without risk, no matter how insignificant the procedure may seem. Those risks differ greatly depending on many factors, including the type of procedure the patient is to undergo and the patient’s health. A Chicago surgical error lawyer understands that those who are about to undergo any type of procedure should be aware of the risks that are associated with all surgeries and how patients may be affected.


When patients undergo some surgeries, they are often put under general anesthesia. This essentially puts patients to sleep for the duration of the procedure. While not very common, serious complications can result from the use of these drugs. The most serious complication occurs when a patient has an allergic reaction to the anesthetic. This can result in patient death if doctors do not recognize the symptoms and administer treatment immediately. Other risks for anesthesia include waking during surgery and damage to the teeth and throat.


The skin acts as a natural barrier to the outside world, keeping out potentially dangerous microbes that could cause serious infections in the body. This barrier must be breached in order for many surgeries to take place. In doing so, there is always a risk that infection could set in and cause patients complications after surgery. In most cases, infections are caused when doctors and staff fail to adhere to stringent sanitation protocols enforced by hospitals under the direction of the Joint Commission.


In some surgeries, unexpected bleeding can occur. If patients lose a large amount of blood, they may require immediate blood transfusions or other life-saving interventions. While some cases of blood loss during surgery are expected and properly handled by medical professionals, negligent medical errors can also cause the problem. A surgeon may accidentally hit a major blood vessel or damage an area of the body that they should have left intact. In some cases, additional surgery may be require to fix these mistakes.

Blood Clots

Blood clots, formally known as deep vein thrombosis, are one of the greatest risks surgical patients face. Blood clots that form at the surgical site or within the arms or legs during recovery can become dislodged and travel throughout the body. Many doctors attempt to keep this from happening by prescribing drugs designed to thin the blood. They may also direct patients to  use specially designed compression stockings during recovery.

The most severe dangers patients face from blood clots occurs when clots travel to the lungs to become pulmonary emboli. These clots can keep blood from traveling through the heart and into the lungs, starving the body of vital oxygen. A Chicago surgical error lawyer understands the condition is often fatal.


Physician’s Weekly reports that postoperative pneumonia is the third most common surgery complications in the U.S. The condition is characterized by an infection in the lungs, usually bacterial, that prevents the air sacs from properly inflating. The body fails to receive the oxygen it needs and the body shuts down. As many as 25 to 50 percent of patients who develop these lung infections after surgery die. Those who survive the condition often face tens of thousands of dollars in additional medical costs. Despite these high mortality rates, no universal programs are in place to help prevent these infections in patients in surgical wards.


Scarring after surgery is a common issue for many patients. Those with large incisions, or multiple surgery sites may experience severe scarring both inside and outside of the wound. In patients who undergo abdominal surgery, scar tissue can attach to internal organs, causing severe life-long pain. The severity of the surgery, the size of the site and genetics can play a large role in how much scarring occurs. In some instances, scar tissue incidences can be minimized, and surgeons should always do their best to reduce or eliminate the chances of internal and external scarring if possible.

Finding the best hospital for surgery

There are shockingly few resources available to help patients choose the best hospital for surgery. To fill the information gap, Consumer Reports recently performed a study to identify and rank hospitals based on how patients do during and following surgery. Researchers examined 27 categories of scheduled surgeries and created ratings for five specific procedure types, including hip replacement, back surgery, knee replacement, angioplasty and carotid artery surgery.

All data for the study came from an analysis of billing claims that 2,463 hospitals submitted to Medicare from 2009 to 2011. All patients were at or over the age of 65. Each hospital was ranked according to post-surgery mortality rates and the frequency of extended hospital stays due to surgical complications. Researchers found that most of the nation’s renowned hospitals did not make the top of the list. Teaching hospitals did not rank well either, with most large hospitals performing worse than expected. Rural hospitals ranked better than many others.

Seeking legal help

No matter what procedures surgery patients are due to undergo, they should always learn as much as possible about the facilities in which these procedures are to take place. Patients can also benefit from seeking the most experienced doctor they can find. Unfortunately, patients must rely on medical professionals who may make mistakes. Those who have been injured in a surgical procedure should contact a Chicago surgical error lawyer for a claim evaluation. With an attorney’s help, many patients may receive compensation for their injuries.

Categories: Medical Malpractice