Pre-Op Surgical Errors - Medical Malpractice Attorney

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Written and edited by our team of expert legal content writers and reviewed and approved by Daniel Harwin

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Contact our lawyers if you believe a hospital or one of its staff members is guilty of making a harmful or fatal error in preoperative clearance. Sometimes patients have underlying medical issues that make certain surgical procedures too risky for them to undergo. Patients or grieving loved ones deserve to explore their rights and potential opportunities for legal action under Florida law. The experienced surgery malpractice attorneys at Freedland Harwin Valori Gander, PL can help injured patients or loved ones with these types of claims in Florida.

What Does Preoperative Clearance Mean?

“Preoperative clearance,” involves the process when healthcare providers identify the patient’s medical history and/or background to determine if they are appropriate for a particular procedure. A physician must carefully review a patient’s chart and medical history to decide whether or not the patient is appropriate for the surgery or whether a different operation is more appropriate. Certain conditions can make a patient inoperable due to the risks of the procedure outweighing the rewards. Many different signs and health factors can tell a doctor not to give preoperative clearance, including:

  • Abnormal electrocardiogram (EKG)
  • Abnormal heart rate
  • Anemia
  • Increased risk of blood clots
  • Diabetes-related complications
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • High or low blood pressure
  • Underlying medical condition(s)

If a doctor notices any risks that make the patient unfit for the operation, it is his or her professional duty to recognize the issue and take appropriate action. The patient or health problem might be entirely inoperable, or the patient might need to gain better control of his or her health before undergoing the surgery. A doctor can instruct a patient to treat hypertension, diabetes, obesity, diet, sleep problems, or other impairments or issues that could prevent preoperative clearance before returning for another evaluation. Giving clearance when a reasonable and prudent doctor would not have, resulting in undue patient harm or wrongful death, can be medical malpractice.

Duties of Staff Members in a PACU

PACUs are often quiet areas in hospitals. Patients are often unconscious, coming out of anesthesia, lethargic, or unable to function. The quiet nature of the PACU, however, does not necessarily translate into patient well-being. PACU staff members must be on their guard at all times for possible signs of issues or complications. Staff must be vigilant to notice underlying problems without the patient voicing his or her concerns – usually through the use of electronic monitoring and alarm systems. Duties PACU staff must perform to ensure patient safety include:

  • Monitoring patients at all times
  • Keeping alarms on despite alarm fatigue
  • Paying strict attention to patients
  • Preventing obstructed views of the patient
  • Communicating with patients and their family members
  • Communicating with a larger team of doctors and professionals
  • Working efficiently to ensure patient success

Complications in the PACU after surgery are relatively common. Anesthesia complications such as nausea, vomiting, muscle soreness, and sore throat are frequent and typically non-life-threatening. Less commonly, serious complications such as adverse drug reactions, stroke, heart attack, problems breathing, swelling, or bleeding occur. PACU staff should be able to detect and address any complications in a way that minimizes risk to the patient.

What to Do After a PACU Error Injures You

It is up to those working in the PACU to keep alarms turned on, to monitor patients at all times, and to administer life-saving treatments as necessary. It is the PACU facility’s duty to keep an adequate nurse-patient ratio, to train staff correctly, and to maintain protocols that will reduce the chance of PACU errors. Any PACU errors arising out of negligence could result in a medical malpractice lawsuit in Florida.

Failing to monitor the patient after surgery can be a fatal mistake. If the patient worsens without PACU staff member noticing or reacting, the post-anesthesia patient could bleed out, suffer brain damage from lack of oxygen, slip into a coma, or die. Distracted, careless, or negligent staff members are hazards in post-operative care units and liabilities to the hospital.

Inaudible alarms, alarm fatigue, obstructed view of the patient, poor training, not enough staff members, and lack of clarity around what an employee should do can all result in preventable PACU errors. If a PACU mistake has caused your injury or led to the wrongful death of a family member, consult with an attorney about your legal rights. You could be eligible for financial compensation. 

How to Prove Pre-Op Medical Malpractice

The doctor should assess the risks versus the rewards of the surgery for the patient and find out if there are less extreme or invasive options that would be safer or more effective. Failure to take the proper steps and actions to determine preoperative clearance can mean going through with an unreasonably dangerous surgery that the patient should never have had. If you suffered injuries or complications or a loved one passed away during an operation, consider whether a preoperative clearance error could be at the heart of the problem.

To prove medical malpractice, one must have evidence that the defendant owed a duty of care to the patient, breached this duty, and caused the patient’s damages. This may include investigating the incident, talking to witnesses, or hiring experts to testify. An attorney can help you with all of these processes and expedite your claim as much as possible.

Our lawyers can make sure you file your claim with the right courts, at the right time, with the right evidence and affidavits. We can also help maximize your recovery through skilled litigation and settlement negotiation. To learn more about your rights as an injured patient in Florida, contact our attorneys. Call (954) 467-6400 today.

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