Finding Validity Behind Surgical Site Infection Lawsuits

Jan 23 17:55 2016 Jen Mur Print This Article

Surgical site infections are serious and potentially fatal infections- and preventable. So are lawsuits a viable option for those harmed? 

How safe is surgery? The five page waiver the patient,Guest Posting or their parent, signs before a relatively easy surgery like pulling of the wisdom teeth may have some people pondering this question- if only for a minute.

The waiver is just a precaution. After all, McDonald’s has to write “very hot coffee” now because of frivolous lawsuits. Most surgeries are completed with the perfect stitch and minimal healing time. However, for one in 25 patients undergoing inpatient surgery there is a serious postoperative risk that should leave all pondering for more than a minute.

Surgical site infections (SSI) affect thousands of people every year. Why is this surprising? SSIs are associated with substantial morbidity and mortality, prolonged hospital stay and increased costs- and they are 100 percent avoidable.

That last part is frightening considering the advanced medical world we reek so many benefits from. That same fact is why surgical site infection lawyers are becoming an imminent threat for hospitals.

I met with Surgery Infection Attorney Brian White to discuss the validity of the lawsuits.

Mr. White is a nationally recognized trial attorney specializing in personal injury. He was one of the first lawyers to investigate and file suits against 3M and Bair Hugger, a warming device some studies link to directly causing surgical site infections. He has always handled cases involving defective medical equipment, industrial equipment and drugs, so attempting to bring awareness to surgical site infections through lawsuits was a logical step, he believes. Mr. White has obtained significant settlements on behalf of his personal injury and medical malpractice clients, including a verdict over $26 million.

Q. What is the basis for these lawsuits?  

 A. Dangerous products used during surgery can lead to serious infections and deaths, especially after knee replacement, hip replacement and heart valve surgeries. My clients may deserve compensation for: past, current and future medical expenses, disabilities that resulted from the infection, pain and suffering, lost wages, future wages, and funeral expenses if my client’s loved one died.

Q. Why the focus on knee, hip and heart surgeries?

A. Orthopedic patients in particular are reporting deep joint infections that in some cases have led to sepsis, more surgery, and even amputation. These surgeries carry the most risk in contracting surgical site infections, and the risk is exponentially growing if changes in the healthcare system aren’t made. For example, as a knee replacement infection lawyer I know there are approximately 700,000 knee replacement procedures performed each year in the U.S. By the year 2030, the number is projected to increase to roughly 3.5 million.  

Q. Why do you think lawyers are an important part of working towards eliminating SSIs?

A. Some studies link the Bair Hugger Warming Blanket to SSIs, a popular medical device used to keep patients warm while under anesthesia. Now, some of the people who have contracted infections because of these defective devices are bringing lawsuits based on products liability theory. These lawsuits allege the manufacturer failed to research or design their product sufficiently, failed to warn doctors about risks. failed to pursue safer design alternatives, and failed to pull the blankets from market after the potential dangers were exposed. Taking on multi-million dollar corporations without an experienced attorney may prove extremely difficult.

Q. Your site writes a lot about seeking compensation for loss wages and additional medical costs. The serious health risks associated with any infection is self-explanatory, but how severe is the added financial burden?

A. There’s a great resource relating to the annual cost of healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) on my site. SSIs are only one of five main hospital-acquired infections- together, there are an estimated 722,000 HAIs every year causing 75,000 deaths. The Journal of Medical Economics studied the economic burden of these five infections in U.S. acute care hospitals in 2013 and concluded their annual cost ranges from $96 to $147 billion. This catastrophic number includes initial and additional medical hospitalization charges, including treating the infections costing $9.8 billion annually. The figure also includes loss of wages and loss of future wages from premature death. On average, SSIs add $20,785 to a patient’s medical bill- and it’s not the most expensive out of the five HAIs.


For more insight and information regarding surgical site infections and alleged causes, visit consumer safety organization, Safer-America.


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Jen Mur
Jen Mur

Jen Mur writes for Safer-America, a consumer safety organization dedicated to raising safety awareness through powerful data visualizations and outreach. 

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