Medical Disasters: 8 Simple Tips Guaranteed to Save Your Life in the
Dr. Pierce Scranton
Imagine the electric thrill your
doctor gets when as a patient you tell him, “Doctor, you’re a life-saver!” And he was! He ordered the medicine that brought you out of congestive
Now, imagine the bolt of lightning
that sears your brain when you realize that the treatment your doctor
ordered almost cost you your life. In teaching institutions and large
corporative HMOs this happens more than they care to admit.
Here Are 2 Medical Disasters You
Can Avoid If Follow My Tips & If You Ask the Right Questions:
Medical Disaster 1: A simple knee
operation ending in amputation
D.W. was a 63-year-old woman
was in scorching pain with an arthritic right knee. So, she saw the new
surgeon in town who seemed like a very nice, educable and competent surgeon.
The surgeon suggested a total knee
replacement. “You’ll be good as new!” he reassured her. Yet, the severe pain and swelling after the surgery still prohibited her from regaining normal
range of motion.
After three months her knee was so stiff the surgeon performed a “manipulation under anesthesia” to break up
scar tissue. It didn’t work.
At six months post operative another
surgeon told her, “Your surgeon is a very nice man, but he is brand new in
practice and the prosthesis was not put in correctly.” He recommended a
revision. During the revision the patellar tendon ripped off the tibia, and
the new surgeon reattached it with a bone screw. Later, the wound popped
open and the screw head stuck out of the wound. The knee became infected. Now she is facing an amputation.
By asking these 4 questions, you
can avoid this easily preventable medical disaster:
many operations of this nature have you performed?
can go wrong and what will you do to prevent it from happening?
other forms of treatment are there?
would you go to, outside of your own office, if you needed this treatment?” Get a second opinion.
Medical Disaster #2: A gall
bladder surgery that almost cost a patient’s life
J.M. was a 55 year old suffering
every day with chronically infected gall bladder. His internist referred him
to the teaching institution and medical center due to serious scar tissue
around the gall bladder making a laparotomy and excision of the gall bladder
In the beginning, J.M. was really
pleased with the team of residents and medical students who would be taking
care of him. He liked his attending surgeon who was very prominent in his
field, and he was reassured when the surgeon greeted him in the operation
room the next morning.
During surgery the attending opened
up the abdomen, and then let the chief resident take over the removal of the
scarred gall bladder while he left to make phone calls. The attending poked
his head back into the room to make sure everything was okay, and then left.
As the surgery went well, the chief
resident then gave the closure to the first year resident so he can go see
consults. The first year resident used this opportunity to let the medical
students practice tying square knots during the closure.
That night the floor nurse called
the resident to help manage severe pain. He ordered IV Toradol, which is
usually very effective. But he forgot the medical student’s history and
physical of the patient, which he’d signed-off on. This report indicated
that J.M. was allergic to aspirin – similar to Toradol.
The next morning J.M. had hiccoughs
and the lower part of the wound closure started to pop open. An X-ray of
the abdomen showed free air where a perforated ulcer had occurred in the
stomach due to the Toradol. But that’s not even the worst part.
JJ.M started to vomit blood and go
into shock. He was then rushed back into surgery where a successful
hemi-gastrectomy was performed. This time the attending stayed and closed
the entire wound himself.
Here are my top 4 tips to help
you avoid this medical disaster:
Always ask, “Doctor, are you personally going to
perform my surgery, and will you be there until the end of the operation?”
Be aware that when you are in a teaching
institution, someone is going to be learning on you.
Actively engaged yourself in your care. Be
questioning, not confrontational. Ask what medicines you are being given
and know your allergies.
Ask, “Doctor, have you practiced in other cities
before coming here?” A doctor that moves a lot is a “red flag.”
These eight principles or questions
can help you avoid the above medical disasters and many others described in
my new book,Death on the Learning Curve”. Knowing them will empower
you receive the best care possible when treatment is necessary.
About the Author:
Dr. Pierce Scranton, knows that hiding among the
sterile scrubs and gleaming instruments of an operating room are
split-second life-and-death decisions and horrors when simple procedures go
terribly wrong. His new novel, Death on the Learning Curve dramatically
describers these tragedies and how to avoid them.