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Des Moines Personal Injury Law Blog

When items are left behind in surgical sites

When people enter the operating room to have a surgical procedure performed, they may not expect to leave with a piece of surgical equipment still inside of them. Surprisingly enough, however, this horrible type of medical error continues to occur despite new technologies designed to trace medical equipment during procedures. Out of an estimated 50 million people who have surgeries in the United States each year, approximately 4,082 people are victims of these ‘never events’, according to an article published in Surgery. These numbers may be underestimated, as some people may not know that they have surgical equipment left behind in their operating sites.

Surgical sponges are the most common items left behind. Surgeons use these gauze-like pads to soak up blood and other fluids in the operating site, enabling them to better see the operating site. Once the pads become saturated with fluids, however, they tend to blend in to the environment and can adhere to body organs. If the surgeon and other operating room staff do not have an accurate count of how many surgical sponges are being used during the procedure, they may inadvertently leave one behind.

Do you know how to identify a serious head injury?

Brain injuries are more common than most people know. A seemingly minor blow to the head can easily cause some level of brain dysfunction. Injury victims may suffer a variety of physical symptoms immediately after sports injuries, car accidents, acts of violence, falls at work or any number of other incidents involving head bumps. Some signs of a traumatic brain injury (TBI) may not appear until long after an injury has occurred.

Why do I need to know TBI symptoms?

Mild brain injuries can cause long lasting damage

People who are involved in minor fender benders or catastrophic collisions run the risk of receiving a traumatic brain injury. A sudden jolt to the head can cause whiplash, where the soft tissue of the brain hits against the hard interior of the skull. The resulting brain damage can range in severity, from mild to severe, depending on the force of impact, as well as what area of the brain was injured. Traditionally, more attention was paid to patients who suffered moderate to severe brain injuries, as this damage was thought to have more long-term effects. Research shows, however, that people who have mild brain injuries may suffer from long-term cognitive damage as well.

In the past, the screening tests used to identify traumatic brain injuries focused on areas of severe damage and were unable to pick up trauma in the white brain matter. Researchers have found that using diffusion tensor imaging in patients with reported TBI can pick up images of damaged white matter cells. These cells, which are crucial cognitive components of the brain’s ability to remember, speak and understand language, will show up dark on a DTI screening test when they are damaged. Researchers studied a sample of patients with mild TBI by looking at their DTI results immediately following the accidents, and then at a one-year follow up. While some people showed improvement in their white brain cells at the one-year follow up, others still had significant damage. This may indicate long-term trauma.

Granting "Informed Consent"

Generally speaking, doctors must gain the informed consent of their patients before pursuing a course of treatment. Informed consent means that the patient agrees to the treatment after having been informed of the potential risks and consequences. The reality of consent in the medical field is often murkier than this definition might imply.

The meaning of "informed"

Many professional fields are cloaked with jargon. If a doctor hands the patient a consent form filled with a combination of medical and legal jargon, is that patient "informed?" Doctors may describe the procedure in ways that no one but another doctor in the same medical discipline would have any hope of understanding. Still, the doctor can argue that the patient is technically informed, even if that patient has no real understanding of the treatment or its potential risks. 

Causes of medication errors

Medication errors in Iowa can lead to devastating effects. At Galligan Reid PC, we know that an error of this type can claim lives, lead to extended suffering or cause serious side effects. That is why it is important to understand how they occur and what you can do to help prevent an error happening in your care.

The Mayo Clinic defines medication errors as a situation where medication is given incorrectly. This could mean it is given in the wrong dose, at the wrong time or the wrong medication is administered. It also includes medications being given together that are not compatible, producing serious drug interactions. These situations are also entirely preventative because they are caused by human error. This could be someone has written something or read something incorrectly or not read instructions at all and simply made a wrong assumption.

Old habits die hard in the medical field

Serious problems often inspire people to seek expert opinions. If an issue is complex, technical or otherwise confusing, we are often left at the mercy of people who have made it their business to address those issues. Doctors are the experts when it comes to medical care. Unfortunately, too many patients assume that their doctor is an expert on whatever is ailing them at the time.

If you want good medical care, you will almost certainly have to take the time to educate yourself about the treatment options and risks associated with your condition. It is sometimes necessary to speak to three or more doctors to an honest assessment of the best way for you to proceed. In fact, some common treatment regimens have survived for years, even decades, despite substantial research proving them to be ineffective. Patients die having undergone needless tests or useless procedures that never had a hope of improving their condition. We like to believe that doctors are weighing evidence and keeping abreast of the latest developments, but that is all too often not the case. 

Medical malpractice in the emergency room

You will likely find yourself in an Iowa emergency room at some point during your life. While emergency rooms are supposed to be a place for healing, they can also be the scene of doctor errors and mistakes that can lead to serious consequences. While we at Galligan Reid, PC, understand the stress and pressure medical personnel face in the ER, we also understand that in some cases, it is pure negligence that leads to harm. When deciding if you have a case, you need to determine if negligence occurred.

According to ConsumerDangers.com, incorrect diagnosis or medication errors are common in ER settings. This is due to the large numbers of patients being seen and the rate of speed at which medical personnel is expected to work. Doctors may spend only a couple minutes with you, leaving the rest of your care up to interns, nurses and other lesser trained individuals. All it takes is someone misreading your information for them to make a mistake.

Iowa rehabilitation center receives equipment for brain injuries

After someone suffers a brain injury, their life many change in many ways. On top of forgetfulness, headaches and other physical and mental problems, brain injuries can also have a negative impact on peoples' financial future. In Polk, and other cities throughout the state of Iowa, suffering a brain injury may force someone to take time off work, which can result in financial hardships.

A rehabilitation center based in Iowa recently received equipment to help people who have suffered a brain injury recover. The equipment, which includes a $36,000 bicycle, was obtained by the rehabilitation center as a result of an organization that was founded in 2012. Over a four-year period, the foundation raised over $500,000.

Protecting your loved one in a nursing home

When parents or other loved ones in Iowa get older, it is sometimes necessary to place them in a long-term care facility. Unfortunately, mistreatment and neglect occur in nursing homes across the country, so it is important to choose a nursing home carefully. If you suspect abuse, it may be necessary to seek help. We at Galligan Reid understand the absolute importance of protecting the elderly who have suffered mistreatment.

Ultimately, you want to choose a facility in which abuse does not occur in the first place, but this is not as straightforward as it may sound. According to Fox Business, it may require through careful research and personal visits to the home. You should request references and inquire about whether the facility has ever been fined by the State Department of Health. Most importantly, do not rush the decision. However, even after your best efforts, sometimes abuse still happens. Therefore, you should be able to recognize the warning signs of mistreatment in order to stop it as soon as possible. One of the most obvious red flags is a swift change in your loved one's demeanor. Lashing out with uncharacteristic anger may be his or her way of coping with abuse.

Deaths from cervical cancer are far too common

Misdiagnosis is a troubling problem in the medical field. Certain conditions are more frequently misdiagnosed than others. In addition, some groups of patients are more likely to be victimized by misdiagnosis than others. A recent study suggests that one area where the medical field is falling short is in the diagnosis of cervical cancer.

Mortality rates and race

The estimated yearly death toll from cervical cancer is more than 4,000. The death rate, while inexplicably high, grows even more troubling when broken down along racial lines. White women suffer a mortality rate of 4.7 per 100,000. Black women suffer from a mortality rate of 10.1 per 100,000. Both rates are high, given advances in the medical field that make it possible to successfully treat the vast majority of victims. For that treatment to work, however, doctors and patients must adhere to screening guidelines and participate in follow-up care and monitoring. Screenings that indicate the potential presence of cervical cancer must be correctly interpreted and the necessary information must make its way to the client. If any step is missed, a cervical cancer patient could miss out on weeks, months or years where treatment could halt the spread of the disease. 

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