Jillian Evans discusses post surgical sepsis as part of the
Torkin Manes LegalPoint Video Series.
Surgery is often thought to be the most risky medical procedure
that someone can undergo, but the hours and days after a patient is
wheeled out of the operating room can be when some of the most
serious and devastating medical errors occur.
When medical mistakes happen, you are entitled to hold your
Abdominal surgery, even when done properly, always carries a
risk of infection. Sometimes, the infection is caused by poor
infection control at the site of the surgery. Other times, an
infection might develop due to insufficient antibiotics before,
during or after the operation.
But frequently, an abscess or other sepsis can develop
after surgery even under ideal operating conditions: due to the
nature of the environment inside the abdomen, sometimes
stitches don't heal, incisions get inflamed or bowel contents
leak into the surrounding space.
If these infections are identified and treated early on, they
are usually quite manageable. Where patients are often harmed,
however, is when the clear signs of an infection go unnoticed and
untreated by their health care team.
While the surgeon who did your operation usually remains
responsible for you for the remainder of your admission to
hospital, it is not uncommon for post-operative patients to be
passed from one doctor to the next. When there is a lack of
continuity of care, it can be easy for your signs of a developing
infection to be missed until it is too late.
Sudden elevations or drops in white blood counts, a bloated,
distended abdomen, a fever, pain and a rapid heart rate are all
signs that a potential infection is developing. For many
infections, including an abscess or anastomotic leak, x-ray or CT
imaging of the region can quickly figure out what's going
A fast and aggressive response to infection, whether through
antibiotics, draining of an abscess or in some cases returning to
the operating room to clean out and re-stitch the leaking incision,
is always important.
Failing to do so can lead to a quick spread of your infection
beyond the area of the original surgery, into surrounding organs or
bloodstream. Allowed to progress, an untreated post-surgical
infection can cause cardiac complications, stroke, organ failure or
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guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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