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Post-operative errors spell trouble for patients

When someone is admitted to a Schenectady hospital for surgery, he or she understandably has a lot on his or her mind. Something that patients should not have to worry about is whether doctors and medical professionals will cause any errors in their post-operative care. While a patient may think that he or she is in the clear after waking up from surgery, a medical mistake after an operation could still expose him or her to serious injury.

One of the most common problems found in a recent study of post-operative medical mistakes was prescription errors. Taking medication on a fixed schedule is extremely important to patients who have been through something as traumatic as a surgery. In one of the study's documented "process failures," a nurse did not give his or her patient medicine when scheduled. Though the patient had a surgical procedure performed at 5 p.m., he or she was supposed to have his or her medication at 6 p.m. Instead, hospital staff members forgot and it wasn't until 11 p.m. that they finally administered the drugs.

While it is unclear if that specific patient was injured by the prescription error, nearly 51 percent of these mistakes do lead to serious problems. The study did not record any deaths because of medical mistakes, nor did any patient suffer a disabling injury, but this should not be read to say the medical errors were relatively minor. Just because someone doesn't die or is disabled from a medical error doesn't mean that he or she did not suffer excruciating pain, was forced to undergo costly procedures, or had to miss a considerable amount of work. All of these are compensable injuries that a patient may sue for in a medical malpractice lawsuit.

It is true that this study was done outside of the United States, but a medical professional said that it is likely the research is applicable to busy American hospitals, too.

Source: Reuters, "Study finds errors in post-surgery care are common," Kerry Grens, Oct. 2, 2012

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