Ask the parents of Mariah Edwards about the risks of surgery, even a routine one, and you will quickly learn that they do not subside when the wound is closed and the patient is wheeled into recovery. This 17-year-old girl died tragically after a routine tonsillectomy as a result of the failure of nurses to check on her after administering a potent narcotic. She suffered respiratory arrest and hypoxic brain injuries, and she later died as a result of the poor monitoring.
Sadly, cases like this are more common than the medical community lets on. Patients often react to narcotics and anesthetic after the surgery itself, the part most patients think is the most dangerous, is over. It is up to patients and their families to inform themselves about the risks of not only the surgery, but also post operative care. If you are facing a pending surgery, here are some things you should know about the risks you face in the recovery room.
Ask the Right Questions
First, start by questioning your doctor about what will happen when the surgery is over. Ask questions like:
• Who is in charge after the surgery?
• How long will I be monitored while in the recovery room?
• How many patients will my nurse be overseeing?
• How long should I expect to be under?
• What type of digital monitoring will be used?
If you are not happy with the answers, insist on better care, or look to a different healthcare provider.
Know Which Drugs Will Be Used
Then, ask about the drugs that will be used. Improper administration of drugs or the uses of drugs that have side effects the patient does not know of are often a problem after an operation. The patient is not alert enough to ask questions or warn of allergies, but the patient’s family may not be in the room when the first doses of mediation are delivered. For this reason, you need to know ahead of time what medications you or your loved one will be given. Make sure that any allergies are carefully noted on the individual’s chart. Some hospitals will even place a wristband on the patient indicating the allergy. Insist on safety measures like these. Also, insist on the presence of someone else in the recovery room, particularly if the patient is a minor.
Catastrophic injury can occur even after a surgery is complete. Protect yourself and those you care about by asking about these risks before surgery, insisting on proper monitoring and pushing for adequate care for the one you love who is facing surgery.
Mario Cattabiani is the Director of Communications at Ross Feller Casey, LLP, a personal injury and medical malpractice law firm. Visit http://www.rossfellercasey.com/post-op-checklist/ for more information about post-operative care.