Knowing you’ll be going into surgery can be overwhelming. It’s likely you have many thoughts running through your head about how the procedure will go and what recovery will be like. If you’re worried about the risks, possible outcomes, or medical errors, there are things you can do to maximize your chances of having a successful surgical outcome. Overall, it’s important to remember that you are the one undergoing surgery, which means you should feel as prepared as possible before the operation.
Follow Your Doctor’s Pre-Op Orders
Prior to your surgery, it’s likely your doctor or another medical provider from the hospital or surgery center will discuss pre-operative instruction with you. You will want to follow these orders closely to avoid any complications during surgery. While orders are often specific to the individuals, some of the most common include:
- Not eating or drinking after midnight the day of your surgery
- Taking any necessary medications
- Refraining from smoking after midnight the day of your surgery
- Notifying your doctor if you have any health changes, like a cold or fever
- Wearing comfortable, loose-fitting clothing
- Avoiding wearing excessive amounts of makeup
Keep in mind if you neglect to follow your physician’s instruction, you could have complications during the initial anesthesia administration, during the surgery, or post-op.
Understand the Risks Associated with the Procedure
While it’s likely the outcome of the surgery is on your mind, you should also be thinking about the complications that could arise during or as a result of the procedure. Some of the most common risks include the following:
- Anesthesia Complications. If a patient has a reaction to the anesthesia drugs, the consequences can be serious. Most problems are found to be related to the process of inserting the breathing tube, which is also referred to as intubation. Patients should also be aware of the risk of eating before surgery and aspirating – which means food or fluid enters the lungs.
- Bleeding Problems. While bleeding is normal and expected during surgery, severe bleeding could result in the need for a transfusion or a termination of the procedure.
- Blood Clots. Blood clots are a significant risk during surgery. If a clot forms and is not fixed in time, a stroke is likely to result.
- Death. Whether emergency or elective, all surgeries carry a risk of death. Patients should be aware of how risky their procedure is and whether or not there are alternatives.
You have the right to ask as many questions as you want in regard to your surgery, how to prepare for it, what will occur during it, and how post-op will be handled. It’s a good idea to make a list of your questions and have it ready at your final appointment before the surgery. Not only will this ensure your doctor understands your concerns, but you will also gain some peace of mind from fully understanding what you’ll be going through.
Some questions you may want to consider asking include:
- Am I a high-risk surgical candidate or a low-risk candidate?
- Do the rewards of the procedure outweigh the risks?
- Are there any alternatives to the surgery that can produce a similar outcome?
- Are my heart and lungs strong enough for surgery?
- Can my body tolerate anesthesia?
Be Aware of Possible Errors
There are instances where doctors or nurses make mistakes that could have been prevented because of negligent actions or inactions. Many of these mistakes are caused by miscommunication, inexperience, and fatigue. Being aware of the most common surgical errors can help you ask your medical team the right questions and ensure you receive the care you deserve.
- Foreign objects left in a patient’s If a surgeon or a member of the surgical team leaves an object like clamps, gauze, or pads inside a patient, serious infection is likely and the patient will need to go through a second procedure to remove the item.
- Operating on the wrong part of the body. When miscommunication occurs, there’s a chance a patient could receive surgery on the wrong part or side of their body.
- Operating on the wrong patient. If a patient isn’t properly identified prior to surgery, they could undergo a procedure meant for someone else.
- Nerve damage. Scalpels are incredibly sharp. Even the smallest hand tremor or wrong move can result in significant nerve damage.
- Anesthesia errors. If a patient received too much anesthesia, they could suffer brain damage. Too little anesthesia can result in awareness during surgery or increased pain levels.
Hold Medical Staff Accountable
As a patient, it can be intimidating to hold your caregivers accountable; however, it’s important to do so because you deserve the best care possible. Do what you can to maintain a respectful, calm relationship with your doctor. If problems do arise, a positive relationship can make finding a resolution easier. It’s also a good idea to point out any errors you see, no matter how small. Even a seemingly insignificant mistake can have deadly consequences.
Even when you do everything in your power to increase the chances of a successful surgical outcome, there’s the possibility a surgeon or surgical assistant will make a preventable mistake. When this happens, it’s important to remember you have legal rights and options that can not only assist you with any injury-related expenses but also let the negligent medical providers know that their actions will not be tolerated.
Our attorneys represent victims in Pennsylvania who are looking to take legal action. We understand the complexities of med mal law and are prepared to provide you with the legal representation you deserve. To learn more about how to proceed, contact us to schedule a free consultation.