What happens when a plastic surgeon ignores or downplays infection symptoms after surgery?

One of the known complications of any surgery, including a plastic or cosmetic procedure, is an infection. While it’s normally difficult to prove that any post-operative infection was caused by negligence, the failure to diagnose and treat an infection is another story.

That’s the situation that faced a client of mine, who was treated by a plastic surgeon in The Woodlands for a breast implant revision. Sadly, she experienced about every complication in the book. One of them was an aggressive infection that the surgeon seemingly tried hard to ignore, even though the signs and symptoms—redness, pain, and discharge of fluids—were right in front of him.

The patient, on the other hand, knew something was wrong from the beginning. Her surgery was on Friday and her first follow-up appointment was three days later, on Monday. The surgeon wasn’t even in his office and had delegated responsibility for handling this medical evaluation to his front-office receptionist. When I recently took the surgeon’s deposition, he admitted that his receptionist had no formal nursing or medical training.

There were layers after layers of problems with his care. Even when fluid was discharging from one of the surgical incisions, the plastic surgeon held off taking a sample for testing by a laboratory. He took her back to the operating room for an exploratory procedure. He removed the implant on the side that looked infected, only to rinse it off and re-insert it, in violation of manufacturer recommendations.

After weeks and weeks of suffering, she finally had enough and went to a hospital. After aggressive infectious disease care, they got her infection treatment moving in the right direction. She faced multiple additional surgeries, painful treatment, and more, all because of sloppy care by her plastic surgeon.

In doing some research, I was interested to find some of the same quality of care concerns highlighted by the Texas Medical Board in another plastic surgeon’s care.

Texas Medical Board takes disciplinary action against Houston plastic surgeon

On June 15, 2019, the Texas Medical Board entered an Agreed Order for a quality of care disciplinary action against Houston plastic surgeon John K. Long, M.D. (This isn’t the same surgeon who treated my client whose care I discussed above).

According to his public profile with the Texas Medical Board, Dr. Long has been licensed to practice medicine in Texas since 1975. He’s been board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery since 1985, and reports that he is on the medical staff of Park Plaza Hospital (now HCA Houston Healthcare Medical Center) and The Woman’s Hospital of Texas, both in Houston.

In the Agreed Order, the Board charged that Dr. Long did not meet the standard of care for a patient when he failed to do appropriate post-operative care, improperly billed for one procedure, and didn’t appropriately supervise his delegate.

The Board found that Dr. Long violated the standard of care by failing to:

• Consider replacing the drains after the patient had a significant increase in seroma drainage over a four-day period.

• Evaluate the patient after his delegate (which could be a nurse, nurse practitioner, or physician’s assistant) performed a medical procedure that yielded a very unusually high volume of fluid and noted that the patient had an evolving wound complication.

• Order a wound/fluid analysis, blood counts, or an ultrasound when the patient reported new symptoms that were consistent with deep space infection and a possible deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

• Include accepted practices for treatment of complications, such as re-exploring and irrigating/debriding the wound surgically.

In addition, the Board found that Dr. Long didn’t appropriately delegate when he allowed his office administrator to medically evaluate the patient on two different occasions.

What you can do

If you’ve had a plastic or cosmetic surgery and think you have an infection, talk with your surgeon about ordering a culture and sensitivity testing of the fluid or area. This lab analysis will identify if there’s an infection and, importantly, what antibiotics will treat it. If your injuries are severe, then remember that a top-rated, experienced Houston, Texas medical malpractice lawyer can help you evaluate your potential case.

Robert Painter
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Robert Painter

Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm Medical Malpractice Attorneys in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas. Contact him for a free consultation and strategy session by calling 281-580-8800 or emailing him right now.