Postoperative Medical Malpractice in Oregon

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What are My Rights if I Was Hurt In the Post-Op Room?  Postoperative Medical Malpractice in Oregon Explained

While any surgery can come with risks and potential complications, there are instances in which an individual may have a successful, uneventful surgery but may then go on to have complications in the post-operative period. While many complications may be unavoidable, what matters is how quickly the physicians and other health care providers identify and treat these complications. Failure to identify such complications can lead to serious illness or even wrongful death if left untreated. This could be postoperative medical malpractice.

Most patients do not even realize this.  When ti comes to medical malpractice in general, most people think about surgical errors as being medical malpractice.  Others think that medical malpractice is commonly due to anesthesia errors, a slip of the scalpel, or other mistakes in performing a surgery.  However, some surgical errors could actually not be from the surgery itself.  Rather, they could be in the critical moments immediately after surgery.  This is when a patient is wheeled out of the operating room or OR, and into the postoperative room.

The postoperative room, or PO, is also known as the post anesthesia care unit or PACU.  This can be confusing because there is also a pre-anesthesia care unit, also abbreviated PACU.  As a result, some instances of reviewing medical records can make it more complicated for a patient or lay person to review these.  Whereas it can be more obvious for an experienced lawyer or a retained medical expert.  But whether it is the postoperative room, PO, post anesthesia care unit, or PACU, there is a certain level a care and treatment that most be performed there otherwise it could be Oregon medical malpractice.

What is Postoperative Care? 

Post-operative care refers to the monitoring and medical care that takes place following a surgical procedure. This is especially when a patient is coming out of anesthesia after a procedure, or while the effects of medications or anesthesia are wearing off naturally as the person comes to wake.  This type of care can be provided in an ambulatory surgery center or a hospital. Examples of post-operative care can include the following:

  • Monitoring of vital signs (pulse, oxygen, temperature, blood pressure)
  • Ensuring coming off anesthesia properly
  • Watching for drug reactions or medication reactions as steroids from surgery wear off
  • Pain management 
  • Wound care
  • IV fluid administration
  • Monitoring urine and bowel movement output
  • Monitoring of laboratory values
  • Monitoring for any signs of infection
  • Monitoring for any signs of bleeding 
  • Deep vein thrombosis (blood clot) prevention, depending on the individual’s risk
  • Educating patients in regard to preventing post-operative complications (i.e. deep breathing, ambulation, use of walking aids (if applicable), prevention of skin break down, importance of hydration, importance of adequate pain control), and
  • Other important monitoring tasks.

What Complications Can Occur in the Post-Operative Period?

While the hope and goal of every surgeon is to never have complications, unfortunately complications can occur. Complications may be avoidable or unavoidable, but how a provider takes action (through diagnosis and treatment) really matter. Failure to identify and treat these complications can be a direct cause of negligence. Complications that can occur in the post-operative period include the following:

  • Shock
  • Infections (bacterial, wound, fungal, etc.)
  • Bleeding
  • Blood clots
  • Urinary retention
  • Lung complications (i.e. pneumonia, atelectasis)
  • Anesthesia reactions
  • Pain
  • Pressure ulcers
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Compartment syndrome
  • Anaphylactic shock or reactions to medications that were suppressed by steroids during a procedure, and
  • Many other serious types of medical malpractice. 

These are just a few of the many complications that can occur in the PACU or PO.  Sometimes these are naturally caused, buy other times it could be due to postoperative medical malpractice.

How Can Postoperative Complications be Caused by Medical Malpractice?

There are many ways in which a medical provider may be held liable for postoperative medical malpractice as the result of a PACU complications or injuries that arise. Examples of this include the following:

  • Infection due to lack of sterility during surgery
  • Failure to recognize and treat infection in the post-operative period
  • Failure to recognize shock, a life-threatening emergency that can lead to death if left untreated
  • Discharging the patient too early, when the patient needs further monitoring
  • Discharging an unstable patient
  • Failing to practice blood clot prevention techniques (i.e. anticoagulants, ambulation, compression stockings, intermittent pneumatic compression)
  • Failure to identify and treat urinary retention, leading to bladder over-distention, bladder deformity, and possible urinary infection
  • Failure to properly manage wounds, leading to wound infection which can spread to nearby tissue or organs, abscess, or blood stream infection. Failure to mange wounds also can lead to serious interruption of wound healing
  • Post-operative hemorrhage (bleeding) which could possibly be caused by a surgical error that occurred during the surgery
  • Failure to identify hemorrhage in the post-operative period
  • Failure to ensure patient is oxygenating adequately, ensuring ambulation, deep breathing exercises, etc
  • Improper management of infection
  • Compartment syndrome that is left untreated, possibly leading to amputation, nerve damage, tissue damage, additional surgeries or paralysis.

The most basic cause or reason for these types of injuries is when a healthcare provider simply fails to adequately monitor a patient.  Most times a hospital or out-patient surgical center will have one PACU nurse monitoring two patients—sometimes even sitting between the two in a bed.  Other times a PACU nurse may be assigned to just one patient to monitor and watch.  These are generally acceptable standard.

However, sometimes a PACU nurse may be spread too thin and may have to watch four or five patients at once.  This can be dangerous because very small or subtle signs can be missed, and it could cause a delay in the reaction of a nurse to take intervening steps or to get help from another nurses or a doctor.  These can all be very dangerous instances of postoperative medical malpractice in Oregon.

How Can Our Oregon Postoperative Medical Malpractice Lawyers Help You?

While some post-operative complications may be unavoidable, there are many that are avoidable. Additionally, if treated immediately they may be much more manageable than if there is a delay in diagnosis or treatment of a complication. When a complication occurs as the direct result of an error made, this is considered medical malpractice. Further, when a complication occurs that may be no fault of the provider but the provider fails to diagnose and treat that complication, this is also considered to be medical malpractice. 

In either case, this is unacceptable and is a direct result of negligence. If you or your loved one suffered a post-operative complication that you feel may be related to an error a medical provider made, we encourage you to contact our attorneys today to determine if your post-operative complication or management of the post-operative complication was caused by medical malpractice. If it is deemed that the error was made due to medical malpractice, you may be eligible for compensation. Compensation for this type of injury may include the following:

  • Past physical pain and suffering
  • Future physical pain and suffering
  • Emotional pain and suffering
  • Past, present, and future medical bills
  • Rehabilitation coverage
  • Loss of consortium
  • Lost wages
  • Lost future wages
  • Burial costs and funeral expenses in wrongful death cases, and
  • Many other complications in Oregon.

Ask our Lawyers for Help in Oregon PACU Cases

If you or a loved one have been seriously injured or killed as a result of medical malpractice contact the Oregon Medical Malpractice Lawyers at Kuhlman Law at our number below or fill out the intake form.  We offer a free initial case evaluation and handle cases on a contingency fee which means that you pay no money unless we recover.

Our law firm handles cases throughout the state including Bend and Portland Oregon, Redmond, Central Oregon, Sisters, Madras, Multnomah County, Deschutes County, Salem, Eugene, Corvallis, Lane County, Medford, Gresham, La Grande, Albany, Medford, Beaverton, Umatilla, Pendleton,  Cottage Grove, Florence, Oregon City, Springfield, Keizer, Grants Pass, McMinnville, Tualatin, West Linn, Forest Grove, Wilsonville, Newberg, Roseburg, Lake Oswego, Klamath Falls, Happy Valley, Tigard, Ashland, Milwakie, Coos Bay, The Dalles,  St. Helens, Sherwood, Central Point, Canby, Troutdale, Hermiston, Silverton, Hood River, Newport, Prineville, Astoria, Tillamook, Lincoln City, Hillsboro, and Vancouver, Washington.

We also have an office in Minneapolis, Minnesota and take medical malpractice cases throughout the Twin Cities, including St. Paul, Hennepin County, Ramsey County, Dakota County, Washington County, Anoka County, Scott County, Blaine, Stillwater, and Saint Paul Minnesota.

For a free case evaluation


(541) 385-1999 in Bend, Oregon
(503) 479-3646 in Portland, Oregon
(612) 444-3374 in Minnesota

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