Surgical site infections occur in up to 5% of all surgical procedures. These infections can have serious consequences for patients. In cases where these infections are undiagnosed and untreated, the consequences can be fatal. In fact, infection is the primary cause of death in up to 75% of patients who die in the postoperative period.
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Causes of Surgical Site Infections
In 2011, the CDC recorded 157,500 surgical site infections. This prompted the agency to issue updated guidelines and monitoring requirements for hospitals with the goal of reducing surgical site infections by more than 70%. It’s a goal that has not been reached yet.
From this monitoring, it was determined that surgical site infections are most often caused by improper cleaning and sterilization techniques. Surgical teams that fail to properly sanitize themselves and their equipment with antiseptic agents including soap and alcohol can transport potentially lethal pathogens into the operating theater.
During surgery, these pathogens can be introduced into tissue, organs, and the bloodstream. Even with the administration of antibiotics, these infections can spread rapidly through the patient’s body which is weakened and recovering from surgery.
Infections Increase Treatment Costs
On average, post-surgical infections require patients to stay an additional 14 days in the hospital while the infection is treated. Treating an infection can increase the total treatment cost by over 300%. A Chicago area medical malpractice lawyer can help seek compensation for the additional time away from work and any pain and suffering such a delay in recovery would create.
Symptoms of Surgical Site Infection
Patients whose surgery leads to infection often experience multiple symptoms that include the following:
- A feeling of burning heat around the site of the incision.
- Redness that radiates across the skin in streaks away from the point of incision.
- Drainage of pus or other liquid from the point of incision.
- Pain and tenderness that spreads throughout the body.
- Uncontrolled fever that persists.
Failure to diagnose the presence of these symptoms indicating a surgical site infection and failing to administer prompt treatment can have fatal consequences. The risk of mortality is greatest for patients whose health is weakened by autoimmune diseases, heart disease, diabetes, or obesity. Patients with these underlying conditions are at considerable risk of falling into septic shock. Nationwide, it is estimated that septic shock is responsible for up to 6% of all fatalities.