Q: Why do experts think it’s prudent to go to the safest available hospital?
A: A medical error can be quite serious. The complications that follow a medical error or medical negligence can severely impact cognitive and physical functioning for the rest of a patient’s life.
A Lompoc resident had hernia surgery in 2015. Her lawsuit against Lompoc Valley Medical Center alleges that her small bowel was negligently punctured by the surgeon, Dr. Pierce. In addition, the puncture was followed by the negligent failure to detect and repair the perforation. The puncture remained undetected for nearly 3 days while an inpatient. During that time dangerous bacteria flowed through her body, causing infection. The complaint states that she developed septic shock (the body’s reaction to infection). This is a condition that often leads to respiratory or heart failure, stroke, the failure of other organs, and death.
This life-threatening condition, sepsis, was allegedly triggered by a medical error during surgery. It didn’t have to happen. It happened in Lompoc hospital, rated in the lower 15.7% of hospitals nationwide.
Patients are diagnosed with sepsis when they develop specific symptoms. If a patient has more than one of the symptoms along with an infection, sepsis may be a possibility.
Sepsis can progress to severe sepsis when there are signs of organ dysfunction, such as difficulty breathing, low or no urine output, abnormal liver tests, and changes in mental status.
The most severe level of sepsis is septic shock, diagnosed when blood pressure drops to dangerously low levels. The Lompoc patient apparently suffered septic shock and became comatose. In an effort to save her life she was airlifted to Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara. She had to undergo over a dozen surgical procedures and many months of hospitalization and rehabilitation. Fortunately, she survived, but she suffered greatly from the complications that followed the surgical puncture of her bowel.
Research shows that complications from severe sepsis can remain for life.
Life-Long Complications Effect The Whole Family:
Dr. Theodore Iwashyna and his colleagues reviewed data from 516 people over age 50 who survived severe sepsis. The researchers reviewed a period of four years prior to sepsis and eight years after sepsis.
They found that after severe sepsis about 60 percent of patients experienced moderate to severe cognitive deterioration and physical difficulties with basic life activities such as getting dressed and walking.
“For most older Americans, they suffer severe brain and body problems for years after sepsis,” said study researcher Dr. Theodore Iwashyna, assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan Health System. ” These problems place a heavy burden on family members providing care. In some cases, the burden is overwhelming and patients are placed in nursing homes.
Lompoc Resident May Still Suffer Complications From Septic Shock:
It’s now nearly two years from the time the Lompoc patient suffered from septic shock. Yet, the patient is now scheduled for another surgery according to a Santa Barbara Superior Court Case Management Statement filed on September 5, 2017. The patient had to postpone scheduling a date for her trial due to the upcoming surgery.
This case example reminds us how wise it is to select a nearby hospital with the best safety record. In 2017 the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) rated Lompoc hospital in the lower 15.7% of hospitals nationwide. Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara is rated by CMS in the upper 2.2% of hospitals nationwide. That tells us a lot about which hospital is safer.