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Tucson Medical Malpractice Law Blog

Do medical instruments get left behind?

Every year, thousands of Americans enter operating rooms in hospitals and outpatient clinics across the country. If you have gone into an operating room for a surgical procedure, you know how it feels to place your life in the hands of medical professionals. You may trust that they have the education and knowledge necessary to accurate perform your procedure and help you through the healing process. Surprisingly, surgeons and surgical staff make a number of errors in the operating room, pointing to gross medical negligence. This involves leaving foreign objects behind in patients’ surgical sites. These mistakes are often called ‘never-events’ because they should never happen if proper protocol and procedures are followed.

According to the medical journal Surgery, more than 80,000 never events occurred in U.S. hospitals within a 20-year period. John Hopkins University found that these acts of negligence occur 4,000 times every year. Approximately 39 times every week, surgeons and OR staff leave surgical instruments behind. The most common piece of equipment left behind are surgical sponges, which are used to soak up blood and fluids within the operating site. Once the sponges become saturated, they tend to blend into their surroundings.

Mild brain injuries can cause serious problems

Traumatic brain injuries are more common in the United States than some people may think. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, brain injuries are involved in approximately 30 percent of injury deaths in the country. Not all brain injuries lead to death, however. A number of mild brain injuries can cause significant problems and impairment. Yet many people are not aware that these problems stem from an actual brain injury, as mild brain trauma was previously hard to detect using traditional brain scans. Once diagnosed, people who suffer from mild brain injuries may be able to improve their condition through rehabilitation and different forms of therapy.

The human brain is freely suspended in a fluid that protects it from damage. Brain injuries occur when a sudden jolt to the head causes the brain to smash into the skull bone or when the brain is pierced by a foreign object. The degree of brain injury depends on the force of impact, as well as the area of the brain that is damaged. Some people may walk away from an accident not knowing that they have a mild brain injury, but they may exhibit symptoms of mild brain injury. These include the following:

  • Persistent headaches that may increase in intensity.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Tingling in the extremities.
  • Muscle weakness.
  • Trouble sleeping.
  • Mild memory loss, disorientation or confusion.

The new superbug yeast that acts like bacteria

At the Law Office of JoJene E. Mills, PC, in Arizona, we help people who suffer the ill effects of medical malpractice. We therefore thought we should warn you about a new superbug that is spreading around the world. As reports, Candida auris is a superbug yeast that first appeared on epidemiologists’ radar in 2009 when a 70-year-old Tokyo hospital patient developed a stubborn ear infection that turned out to be a new type of yeast infection. At about the same time, two South Korean patients ultimately died when the new yeast invaded their bloodstreams.

Since then, various strains of Candida auris have spread around the world. Today it appears not only in Brazil, India, Israel, Japan, Kenya, Kuwait, South Africa, South Korea and Spain, but 11 U.S. states have recorded a combined 340 cases of it. This new superbug is unlike anything epidemiologists have ever seen before. Yeasts normally establish themselves in the warm, damp spaces of your body, lying dormant until a triggering event causes them to surge forth. Yeasts likewise only infect you if you carry them. They do not infect the people with whom you come into contact.

How common is failure to diagnose?

When you visit your doctor and/or check into an Arizona hospital, you expect him, her or them to correctly diagnose your symptoms, render the appropriate treatment, prescribe the proper medications and get you back to living your normal life as quickly as possible. Sadly, however, none of the health care professionals involved in your case may live up to your expectations.

As the Washington Post reported, diagnostic errors occur in as many as 30 percent of cases, far more than the number of medical errors relating to such things as medication errors or surgeries on the wrong patient and/or wrong body part. In fact, one recent study found that intensive care unit diagnostic errors cause as many deaths in the U.S. as breast cancer.

Miscommunication can lead to misdiagnosis

When people in Arizona make an appointment to see their physician, they expect to be given an accurate diagnosis of their condition. This will help them to receive the treatment they need. There are, however, a high number of incidents where patients are misdiagnosed or are falsely told they do not suffer from a condition at all. Medical misdiagnosis can lead to serious and permanent injury and even death in some cases. Researchers have looked at the factors that cause doctors to misdiagnose patients in an attempt to minimize this type of medical negligence.

One factor that leads to misdiagnosis is poor communication between medical professionals and patients. For example, if patients fail to give physicians a full and complete medical history, doctors may not look for certain underlying precursors that could lead to a diagnosis. Furthermore, physicians should ask clear questions in order to gain a deeper insight into what is going on. Communication errors that take place among physicians, nurses, medical assistants, pharmacists, health administration and other professionals can lead to problems as well. Doctors could get the wrong information regarding a patient’s history, prescription drug regimen, symptoms and other conditions.

What are hospital-acquired infections?

When you become a patient in an Arizona hospital or other health care facility, the last thing you expect is that you will get an infection while there. Nevertheless, that is exactly what you risk, especially if your hospital stay requires time in the intensive care unit where medical professionals treat patients who have the most serious diseases. HealthLine reports that you have a one in ten chance of contracting an HAI every time you are admitted to the hospital.

Hospital-acquired infections also go by the names of health-care associated infections and nosocomial infections. Whichever term is used, an HAI is an infection that you acquire within the first 48 hours after your admission, within three days after your discharge, or up to 30 days after you undergo an operation or surgical procedure.

What must I prove in a medical malpractice case?

When you go to see an Arizona doctor or other health care professional, or when (s)he admits you to the hospital, you expect that these medical professionals have the requisite knowledge, skill and experience to properly diagnose your condition and treat it appropriately. The last thing you expect is that someone in whose hands you placed your health and in whom you placed your faith and trust will injure you or make you sicker than you were before you consulted him or her. Sadly, however, medical errors occur at a rather alarming rate, and when they do, you can sue the doctors, nurses and others who caused your injury, as well as the hospital for which they work.

FindLaw explains that most medical malpractice lawsuits proceed under the theory of negligence. To prevail in a negligence suit, you must prove the following:

  • That the health care professional owed you a duty of care
  • That (s)he breached his or her duty by giving you substandard care that did not rise to the level of the applicable standard of care
  • That his or her deviation from the care standard caused your injury
  • That you were, in fact, injured

How to cope with the lasting effects of a traumatic brain injury

Car accidents, falls, innocent bumps on the head - all can cause injury to fragile brain tissue. Some of the most well-known incidents of brain trauma come from stories of football players who have crashed heads as they have collided in a pile on the field, but the five-car pileup in a busy Arizona intersection can damage soft brain tissue just as much. 

Head injuries are not all severe, of course, but everyone should view even mild brain trauma as a serious incident that warrants careful attention. When symptoms persist or worsen, being aware of the long-term effects of moderate to severe brain trauma can help caregivers of the injured keep perspective.

Lasting effects of traumatic brain injuries

That NFL offensive linemen and running backs sometimes suffer from concussions seems reasonable. Their heads are getting banged around in their helmets every time they step on the field. Football players are not the only ones who should feel concern about traumatic brain injuries though. From Arizona's youngest residents to its eldest, every person who has ever gotten a bump on the head should be aware of the risk that comes with TBIs. 

BrainLine, which is a TBI online resource center, helps individuals understand how brain injuries impact them in the long run. Many factors play into the long-term effects, including how severe the injury was; how quickly the person received medical care and for how long; and how many resources were available to the injured at the time of the incident.

To talk or not to talk (about medical errors) is the question

Going to the doctor can be scary when someone is having unusual symptoms or an extreme amount of pain. What happens when an Arizona resident braves the experience, shows up for the appointment, and comes out with a wrong diagnosis? 

Misdiagnoses are not as uncommon as one might think. Several years back, the American Medical Association reported a 10 to 20 percent incidence of doctors either completely missing the mark or taking so long to come to a conclusion that patients suffered in the meantime.