Sometimes a post-operative infection involves medical malpractice

Infections are dreaded surgical complications.

Here at Painter Law Firm, we frequently hear from potential clients who have faced many months of costly, invasive, and painful medical, antibiotic, and surgical care because of post-operative infections. Under Texas law, the existence of these nasty infections doesn’t always mean there was medical malpractice.

To understand the difference, we should first delve into the two essential parts of a medical malpractice claim: standard of care and causation.

Standard of care regarding infection

In a surgical case, the standard of care is what a reasonably prudent surgeon (or, in the case of a claim against a hospital or facility, reasonably prudent nurse) would have done in the same or similar circumstances.

For most post-operative infections, it will be difficult or even impossible to prove that the infection itself was caused by a failure to follow the standard of care. In other words, infections are considered a known risk of even proper surgical care. Infections can develop even without negligence.

When there is evidence of an outbreak of infections or improperly sterilized equipment at the hospital or surgery center, it may be possible for a plaintiff to prove that development of the infection itself was, in fact, a violation of the standard of care.

Standard of care regarding infection care

The mere fact that an infection occurring isn’t a violation of the standard of care doesn’t always mean a potential medical malpractice case is dead in the water.

The next issue for investigation and consideration is whether the surgeon or physician timely diagnosed and treated the infection.

Surgical or infectious disease experts review the medical records to look for signs and symptoms consistent with infection.

Next, there’s the question of whether the surgeon or physician ordered appropriate testing to rule out infection.

Once infection is diagnosed, there’s the issue of whether appropriate antibiotic coverage was ordered.

Finally, in some post-operative infection cases, a return to the operating room may be necessary to remove an implant or debride an area.

Proximate causation

Even when there’s a clear violation of the standard of care for the delayed diagnosis and treatment of an infection, there’s still the issue of whether it caused harm. That’s called proximate causation, meaning the medical mistake or negligence led to a foreseeable injury of the patient.

Again, surgical and infectious disease experts will offer opinions on how the timing of diagnosis and treatment impacted the patient’s course of healing. If there was a delay in diagnosis, but it did not materially impact the patient’s treatment or injuries, then there is not a viable negligence case.

On the other hand, if the delay in diagnosis and treatment allowed the infection to spread and cause additional problems that required significant care, then a medical malpractice claim could make sense to pursue.

If you’ve been seriously injured because of poor surgical, hospital, or medical care in Texas, then contact a top-rated, experienced Texas medical malpractice attorney for a free strategy session about 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.