Hospital-acquired pneumonia is a common lung infection that can be caused by a number of different germs. When it occurs during a stay in an Illinois hospital, the results can be serious and even fatal. A Chicago medical malpractice attorney knows that often these infections can be prevented through proper hand washing, gowns and other safety measures in a hospital setting. When a medical professional fails to follow these safety procedures completely, it constitutes negligence. Health care workers can easily transmit germs between patients, increasing the risk of the disease.
A Chicago medical malpractice attorney is familiar with the risks present in a health care setting. For example, some patients are more vulnerable to acquiring pneumonia. Hospital patients frequently have weakened immune systems that cannot defend the body, and the germs often present in a health care setting are typically more harmful than those encountered in everyday life. Alcoholics, smokers, those who have chronic lung disease and older patients are particularly at risk for hospital-acquired pneumonia. Major surgery also weakens the body and creates a greater susceptibility to the disease.
Pneumonia that is acquired while a patient is on a breathing machine is called ventilator-associated pneumonia. This illness often occurs due to medical errors such as failure to follow safety protocol when going from one patient to the next.
Symptoms and tests
A patient who acquires pneumonia in a health care setting may notice a general discomfort or a loss of appetite as the first indication that there is a problem. Nausea, a cough that brings up a greenish phlegm, or shortness of breath are common symptoms, as well as fever, chest pain and a decreased blood pressure. It is critical for health care providers to respond to these symptoms immediately because the lungs may sustain permanent damage, and the illness can be life threatening.
Physicians typically respond to these symptoms with tests such as scans to check the lungs, or complete blood counts. Additionally, blood cultures and pulse oximetry tests should be done to discover if there is infection in the blood and measure the oxygen levels present. A sputum culture can indicate what germs caused the pneumonia.
When pneumonia develops as a result of negligence or medical mistakes on the part of health care workers, a Chicago medical malpractice attorney should be contacted. By holding responsible parties liable for medical expenses, pain and suffering and punitive damages, the actions and behaviors that lead to this preventable illness may be deterred.