Can Poor Surgical Positioning Lead to Medical Malpractice?
Georgia is home to some of the country’s most prestigious hospitals, and when we put our lives in the hands of their health care professionals, we expect they are doing everything in their power to keep us safe. Unfortunately, negligence can happen anywhere, and one common issue of medical neglect is poor surgical positioning. While we may think of medical malpractice with surgery as an error made in the operation process, this is not always the case. Sometimes surgical positioning can also lead to damages, and, if this has happened to you or a loved one, you should talk to a lawyer.
What Is Surgical Positioning?
Surgical positioning refers to how medical staff position a patient on the operating table during a surgery. Proper positioning is critical, because patients under anesthesia cannot recognize the discomforts their body would normally signal. For example, if you were lying in a position where you were cutting off blood flow to your arm, you would feel it going numb and be able to move to a more comfortable position. However, if you are under anesthesia, you feel nothing and could move nothing.
During surgery, these natural signals of discomfort aren’t as obvious as they would be during full alertness. As such, the medical team must select the proper surgical position based on the patient’s:
- Overall health
- Medical history
- Body weight
- Surgery type
- Surgery duration
- Anesthesia type
- Nutritional status
- Preexisting medical conditions
Doctors must also consider which position will allow for the best view and access of the surgery site, as well as what will reduce bleeding and the chance for potential injuries.
What Injuries Can Arise From Poor Surgical Positioning?
With poor surgical positioning, the patient is at risk for various injuries. The four common types are circulatory, neurologic, respiratory, and skin damages.
Circulatory damage occurs from restricted blood flow for extended periods. Poor circulation can cause damage to tissues, the cardiovascular system, nerves, and the brain. Circulatory damage is avoidable by changing positions and massaging limbs during the surgery or by reducing the overall procedure time.
Neurologic damages arise from increased pressure on a nerve ending. It can result in temporary or permanent injury in as little as a few minutes.
Respiratory damage results when the patient’s own body restricts or places pressure on the rib cage, diaphragm, or chest. When this occurs, the pressure reduces airflow to the lungs. Lack of oxygen for an extended period can cause brain damage. Respiratory damages are particularly a concern in obese patients, who have more body weight that would restrict airflow. Skin damages result from when the skin and bones meet other surfaces. The pressure can result in minor irritation all the way up to severe conditions, like pressure ulcers.
What Can Lead to Poor Surgical Positioning?
Most surgical positioning injuries are avoidable. If the medical team carefully considers the position, they can reduce the risks of most problems. Doctors can also reduce these risks by ensuring the patient is comfortable before administering anesthesia and taking care to regularly readjust the patient during surgery to avoid pressure complications.
In some cases, a medical team may not take the time to adjust the patient’s position during surgery. a lack of communication between team members could cause this neglect, and they may assume that others will oversee maintaining proper surgical positioning, leaving no one doing it.
Is Poor Surgical Positioning Medical Malpractice?
As the patient cannot feel discomfort under anesthesia, it is the medical team’s responsibility to prevent discomfort due to surgical positioning. As such, these cases do fall under medical malpractice. If you or a loved one has suffered damages due to poor surgical positioning, you may have a right to compensation.
Surgical complications can lead to further injury and medical treatments, lost wages or career, or even loss of life’s joy. If you’ve suffered an injury due to poor surgical positioning, consult one of our attorneys who specializes in surgical errors to explain your rights and receive your due compensation.
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