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Study delves into post-operative fatalities

What can be done to reduce the risk of death after surgery?

A recent study dug into causes of post-operative fatalities with a review of over 40,000 patients. The researchers focused on patients over the age of 45 scheduled to spend at least one night admitted within the hospital after receiving a non-cardiac surgical procedure. The study included an analysis of the patients’ procedure as well as post-op recovery, extending thirty-days after the surgical procedure was complete.

Here is what the researchers found:

  • Procedures are relatively safe. The researchers note that the surgical procedure itself was relatively safe. The reported a low fatality rate, with approximately 0.7% of patients suffering a fatality while in the operating room. Although a relatively small number, it is important to keep in mind that this translates to five fatalities, five patients who died while on the operating table.
  • Complications expected. A vascular surgeon with over two decades of experience who serves as a Senior Medical Fellow at the American Council on Science and Health recently reviewed this study. In his review, the surgeon notes the complications reported in the study were expected. These complications included excessive bleeding and infection.
  • Majority of fatalities occur after surgery is complete. According to the study, 69.9% of fatalities involved patients who remained admitted within the hospital while 29.4% of patients died after discharged.

Since 0.7% of fatalities occurred while in surgery, it makes sense that the majority of fatalities occurred after the procedure was complete. But what caused these fatalities? We, as both the general public and professionals in the medical community, are aware the complications listed in the second bullet point can lead to these fatalities, but what can we do to help mitigate these risks in the future?

Option #1: Change the practice of medicine

The surgeon who reviewed the study noted above calls on researchers to take the process a step farther. Instead of focusing on the causes, he encourages researchers to help address this issue by looking “for some better solutions.” Additional research with applicable solutions could change best practices within operating rooms and help reduce the risk of fatalities both during and after the procedure.

Option #2: Hold those who fail to provide quality care accountable for their wrongdoing

Patients can also help push for change. Those who lose loved ones or who are injured as the result of negligent medical care can hold the responsible medical professional accountable through the legal system. A medical malpractice case can provide victims the funds they need for ongoing medical care while also sending a message out to the medical community. This message states that patients will not tolerate poor quality care. That they will demand better for themselves and their loved ones.

These two tactics could lead to real change.