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Routine surgeries still carry risks

The recent case of a teenager who went into cardiac arrest and was declared brain dead after a routine tonsillectomy brings to light the rare but serious problem of life-threatening surgical complications. In North Carolina and across the United States, complications from routine medical procedures can happen because of a patient's response to bleeding, anesthesia or other factors. This is why patients sign consent forms before any surgical procedure. However, sometimes complications are caused by doctor error.

Tonsillectomy is one of the most common surgeries performed on children in the United States. For adults, common surgeries include appendectomy, gall bladder removal and Cesarean section. The fact that a surgery is classified as routine does not guarantee that it's safe, and because every patient is different, the surgeon's experience does not ensure that they won't make a mistake. Bleeding is part of any surgery, but a surgeon might accidentally nick an artery, causing more bleeding. In some individuals, blood doesn't clot as well as it does in others, so uncontrollable bleeding is a risk.

It is recommended that patients first consider if they really need an optional surgery that is suggested to them by their doctor. If a patient chooses to have surgery, they should inform their doctor thoroughly about their health and medical history beforehand. This can greatly reduce the chance of complications that are not caused by medical malpractice.

Someone who believes that they have been injured or their health has been harmed by doctor error or medical negligence may be eligible to seek compensation from the responsible party or institute. An experienced attorney who understands medical malpractice laws could be helpful in such a case.

Source: CNN, "When routine surgeries go wrong", Jacque Wilson, December 19, 2013

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