Reducing your risk of getting a bad infection in the hospital
Medical error is the third-leading cause of death in America, and bungling the treatment of infections is one of the top medical errors
Hospital and medical lobbyists have convinced many politicians that there is a medical malpractice crisis. They contend that doctors and hospitals need special legal protections because there are too many lawsuits against them.
As an experienced Texas medical malpractice lawyer, I agree that there is a medical malpractice—there are far too many medical errors that seriously injure or kill patients. In my opinion, the best way to encourage more conscientious attention to patient safety is through accountability in civil court.
The extent of medical errors in America is staggering. Experts at John Hopkins University have published their research, which shows that medical error is the nation’s third leading cause of death, behind only cancer and heart disease, causing more than 250,000 deaths each year.
Hospitalizations and infections
When it comes to the length of hospitalizations, the “Goldilocks” factor applies: not too long, not too short, but just right.
If you are rushed out of the hospital too quickly, in particular after a surgery, studies show that you are more likely to develop complications that could require re-admission. On the other hand, experts have found that staying in the hospital longer than necessary leads to higher rates of infection (called hospital-acquired or nosocomial infections).
Many hospitals are full of scary infection-causing bugs like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (S. areus or MRSA), E. coli, Klebsiella, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa (P. aeruginosa).
The most common types of hospital-acquired infections include surgical site infections, urinary tract infections (UTIs), gastroenteritis, pneumonia, and meningitis.
Symptoms of infection
You can help ensure that you get the care you need, and are not kept in the hospital longer than necessary, by being thorough, clear, and honest with your doctor and nurses about your symptoms.
You should tell your doctor and nurse if you have any of these symptoms of an infection: fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, chills, sweats, nasal congestion, being short of breath, a new or change in cough, new pain, swelling or redness in a surgical site or wound, a burning sensation during urination, and a stiff neck.
Another early indicator of a serious problem, including an infection, is a change in mental status. It is unlikely that a patient would be able to perceive this him or herself, but if a family member or friend notices that the patient seems to be acting unusually or out of character, this is important information for the health care team to know.
When it comes to infections, the sooner treatment is started the better the likely outcome will be. When there is a delay in the diagnosis and treatment of an infection, it can spread to the whole body through the blood, in a dangerous condition called sepsis.
This is why patients and loved ones should repeatedly and thoroughly communicate the symptoms of infection that they notice to every doctor and nurse that comes into the hospital room. In other words, make sure that your care does not fall through the cracks.
We are here to help
If you or someone you care for has been seriously injured by an infection that was not timely diagnosed or treated, our experienced Houston medical negligence lawyers are here to help. Call Painter Law Firm at 281-580-8800 for a free consultation about your potential case.
Robert Painter is a medical malpractice lawyer at Painter Law Firm PLLC.
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Published in the July/August 2018 edition of "The Houston Lawyer" magazine