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Medical Negligence
Infection After Surgery

Infection After Surgery

Infection is an accepted risk of surgery. Sometimes the infection will be minor, but on other occasions a severe infection will occur, resulting in a condition called sepsis.

A surgery infection must be diagnosed and treated quickly to prevent serious complications. If medical practitioners fail to meet this standard of care, causing a patient harm, there may be grounds for a compensation claim.

If you or your loved one developed an infection after surgery but treatment was delayed, perhaps because of a missed diagnosis, you need to talk to a solicitor. You could be entitled to take legal action against the clinician or hospital responsible.

For more information on claiming compensation for a surgery infection, please contact us today. We are a specialist medical negligence firm with a team of friendly lawyers. We will be able to advise you on your legal position, saying whether you could pursue a claim.

Surgery infection

Before undergoing surgery, a patient should be informed of the potential risks involved. This will almost always include the risk of infection. This is because the skin is a natural defence against microorganisms such as bacteria. If the skin is cut open, this defence will no longer be effective and bacteria will be able to enter the body.

Consequently a post-operative infection may arise. Doctors often refer to such infections as surgical site infections or 'SSIs'.

The infection can be superficial, affecting only the skin around the surgical incision. If so it will be painful and will produce pus. Although superficial, it should still be treated quickly with antibiotics to ensure the infection does not spread.

If it is not treated the bacteria can travel throughout the body. Alternatively the infection may not start on the skin but arise elsewhere in the body, such as an organ, deep tissue, muscle or other internal space. These surgery infections can potentially be very serious as the bacteria has penetrated the skin. This means it can result in sepsis, something which is very dangerous.

Sepsis after infection

Sepsis is when the body's immune system over-reacts to an infection, whether bacterial, viral or fungal.

It is estimated that around 10% of sepsis cases occur due to a post-operative infection. Bowel surgery is the most likely to result in sepsis because the area is already rife with bacteria. However, that is by no means that only way in which a sepsis surgery infection can occur.

Other ways in which sepsis can happen is after pneumonia, ruptured bowel and deep tissue infections (such as necrotising fasciitis).

Symptoms of infection after surgery

It normally takes a couple of days for the signs of sepsis to develop after surgery. There may be signs of infection beforehand for instance the wound may be sore and weeping. However, it may not be until a few days after the operation that a patient becomes critically unwell.

The patient will feel feverish with a high temperature, fatigue and aching muscles. There will be breathlessness, caused by the body trying to send more oxygen to the brain. The patient will not need to pass urine because the kidneys will begin to lose function.

Within hours the symptoms will have progressed until a patient is suffering from severe confusion and even a loss of consciousness.

Diagnosing infection after surgery

If a patient does develop a sepsis infection after surgery, it is absolutely vital that a diagnosis is made straight away. If a patient is still in hospital from the operation, medical practitioners should notice the deterioration in their condition and investigate the possibility of a surgery infection.

If a patient has already been discharged but returns to A&E believing something is wrong, he/she must be seen immediately by a doctor. The patient should not join the waiting queue because sepsis is an emergency the shortest of delays can be the difference between life and death.

Previously it has been difficult for doctors to diagnose sepsis. In fact, the condition was only defined in 1991 by international experts. Nevertheless, a simple blood test will show that an infection is present. It will also show high levels of lactate, a chemical which is released when the body's organs begin to fail.

Additionally there has been a drive to raise awareness of sepsis amongst medical practitioners. Clinicians should be alert to the signs of sepsis and be able to make a quick diagnosis. This is especially true if a patient is known to have recently undergone surgery, as this is associated with infection and sepsis.

Treating surgery infection

A patient who gets sepsis after an operation must be treated without delay. The treatment will depend upon the nature of the illness, although it is likely that source of infection will need to be located and pus drained away. Antibiotics should be given to help kill the bacteria. A patient will also need other life-support measures such as oxygen, intravenous fluids and medication to increase blood pressure.

Sepsis can make a patient critically unwell so treatment may be provided by the Intensive Care Unit. Sometimes a patient will be put into a medical induced coma to allow their body to recover.

Death from infection after surgery

If an infection after surgery is not caught and treated in time, a patient can suffer fatal, or near-fatal, complications. This happens because sepsis causes the organs to shut down. Subsequently the body will not be able to survive for long.

A patient who suffers fatal or near-fatal complications because of a delays in treatment could be deemed the victim of negligent medical care. Clinicians should be aware of the risks of surgery infection and be suspicious of a patient who begins to feel unwell after an operation. This should lead to a surgery infection being diagnosed and treated immediately.

Contact us today

If you or your loved one has suffered because of an infection after surgery, please contact us at Glynns Solicitors to speak to a clinical negligence lawyer. We will be able to advise you upon your legal position.

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We offer everyone a free, no obligation enquiry. This means you can talk to a solicitor completely free of charge. After this consultation you will be given expert legal advice, during which you will be told whether you have grounds to make a claim.

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