One of the greatest risks that patients take when undergoing surgery is that of surgical site infections, which occur when the area operated on becomes contaminated or bacteria invade the incision site after the surgery. Of the reasons that patients return to the hospital following a postoperative discharge, infection is the most common as well as the easiest to prevent.
A recent study on hospital re-admissions has highlighted the need for more precautionary measures and monitoring of patients during recovery in order to detect infections early and to ensure that patients do not return home while the risk of infection is still a concern.
Hospital Readmission Study Results
Many hospitals have recently sought more insight concerning the alarming rates of readmission that patients experience in order to prevent readmissions and provide better service to their patients. It has been difficult to address the issue of readmission in the past because medical professionals simply didn’t know what factors have had the greatest influence on the need for patients to return.
Data was collected from 350 hospitals as part of a study performed in 2012 to determine the most common causes of readmission so that medical professionals could take proactive measures to lower the rate of hospital readmission.
The results revealed that only about two percent of the patients readmitted returned due to complications that resulted from problems experienced in the hospital. Nearly six percent of readmissions occurred due to complications that resulted from surgical procedures and a staggering twenty percent were the result of surgical site infections.
The findings revealed that the best way to reduce the number of hospital readmissions is to evaluate the causes of infection and ways in which hospital staff can detect and treat infections early so that patients are not released prematurely. Infections are not an uncommon side effect of surgical procedures due to the intrusive nature of surgery and the ability of bacteria to invade wounds during the healing process. For this reason, patients should be more closely monitored following surgeries for signs of an infection which include fever, redness at the site of the incision and pain and discomfort. Some patients are prescribed antibiotics as a precautionary measure in order to immediately kill off any bacteria which may have found their way into the body.
Legal Implications of Surgical Site Infections
When detected and treated properly, the majority of infections are not considered a threat to the health of patients. Infections are treated and cured promptly in most cases through the administration of antibiotics which kill the bacteria responsible for the infection and thereby limit their ability to reproduce and spread throughout the body. Whenever infections go untreated, on the other hand, bacteria reproduce rapidly and begin to travel to other areas of the body. It generally takes time for infections to progress and for bacteria to become mobile which is why the failure to detect infections is commonly associated with neglect.
When an infection reaches the bloodstream, it is considered sepsis and patients in septic shock are at risk of severe complications that include organ failure and death. Due to the ease with which infections can be detected and the preventative measures available to health professionals, hospitals and staff may find themselves liable should patients suffer from serious infections following surgical procedures.
Taking extra steps to ensure that a patient is ready to be discharged and not at risk of contracting an infection are not only important steps to take in order to reduce the likelihood of readmission, but these measures will also limit the number of claims filed against hospitals for medical malpractice resulting from negligence.