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Miami Medical Malpractice Law Blog

Prevention of surgical errors

Florida residents may have heard stories about surgical errors like sponges being left behind in people. Although incidents such as these are rare, they do happen sometimes. However, surgeons and hospitals have taken a number of steps to help prevent these types of mistakes. Some of those measures are simple ones. Surgical teams count sponges before and after surgery, use ink to mark surgical spots and employ checklists as well as enforcing time-outs during surgery to ensure that they have the right records, the right plans and the right patient.

Contrary to the perception that these types of errors are common to surgeons at the beginning or end of their career, most mistakes are made by mid-career surgeons. Such errors also seem to cluster around surgeons who have made mistakes in the past. Statistics show that two-thirds of surgeons who make a mistake have also been mentioned in multiple malpractice suits prior to the surgical error.

Thyroid disease can affect one's mental health

Seeking help from a Florida physician for mental health issues could result in a surprising diagnosis: thyroid disease. Untreated hyperthyroidism can lead to issues such as depression because of the depletion of certain hormones. Low thyroid function can lead to slower thinking and motor responses, also causing an affected individual to deal with fatigue and sleepiness. Mood changes can result from untreated thyroid disease as well, and individuals could deal with a higher risk of Alzheimer's disease.

In cases involving a physician's failure to diagnose thyroid disease, conditions can worsen over time. Additionally, a physician may attempt to treat the wrong disease or condition by not recognizing a thyroid problem. In addressing a patient's complaints, a physician could overlook thyroid disease because of the general nature of the symptoms, which can often be indicators for various other medical conditions.

Learning more about causes of birth injuries in Florida

During some deliveries, it may be necessary to use a vacuum to help the baby exit the birth canal. However, there may be some disadvantages to this. First, the baby's head may experience swelling at the presenting point. While the swelling is normal to some degree, it could make it harder to secure the vacuum on the baby's head without causing any further injury.

While rare, it is possible that a baby could suffer bleeding within the brain due to the use of a vacuum. Another disadvantage of using a vacuum during a delivery is that they should only be used on a full-term baby. Therefore, this may not be an option if the baby is being delivered prematurely or is underdeveloped in any way. Primarily, a doctor will only use the vacuum-assisted delivery approach on babies that are 34 weeks into their development or later.

Failure to diagnose may contribute to increasing measles cases

Florida parents may be concerned with increasing reports of measles in the United States. Although the disease was considered to have nearly disappeared after the vaccine was introduced, more than 60 cases were confirmed in January 2015. One of the most common factors believed to be contributing to this surge in cases is parental decisions not to vaccinate their children. However, physicians may also be culpable in the spread of this highly contagious disease.

A failure to diagnose measles may allow the disease to be spread unnecessarily. One of the reasons for a missed diagnosis is the age of some pediatricians. Because the disease has been under control for so long, many younger professionals have never actually seen or treated patients with measles. Additionally, the early symptoms of the disease typically aren't apparent at the outset. An individual may be contagious for several days prior to the appearance of such signs, and other diseases manifest similar symptoms, making it difficult to correctly diagnose cases.

Pregnancy risk factors that may lead to cesarean delivery

A cesarean birth is a surgery that requires the cutting open of a pregnant woman's abdomen and uterus in order to deliver a baby. Florida has an above average rate of cesarean births.

Data about cesarean births has been tracked across the United States. For 2012, Florida had a rate of 35.0 percent to 39.9 percent of births performed by cesarean surgery. Several health factors in either the woman or the fetus may contribute to the decision to perform a cesarean instead of allowing a vaginal birth to proceed.

Possible side effects after a transplant

After a transplant is complete, there are a variety of side effects that may show up some time in the future. These can be caused or made worse depending on the patient's age, overall condition and whether or not the immune system has been suppressed. Patients in Florida who have undergone chemotherapy or are on drugs designed to suppress the immune system may be most vulnerable to side effects after a transplant.

Common side effects include organ damage, relapse and hormone changes. Infertility and cataracts are also reported among patients after a transplant. Medication given to patients during the transplant process may cause damage to the liver, kidneys and heart. It is often a good idea to talk with the doctor about this possibility before doing a transplant as the doctor and patient can be more aggressive in spotting early signs of damage.

The use of forceps during childbirth

An expectant mother in Florida may be nervous about the possibility of forceps being needed during the childbirth process. In most cases, forceps are not needed during a vaginal delivery. However, there may be cases in which this assistance is required. Forceps offer one option for guiding a baby's head through the birth canal although vacuum-assisted delivery might also be considered.

Factors considered by a physician in deciding to use forceps may include the length of time a mother has been pushing, the waning strength of a mother who can no longer push, fetal stress that may necessitate a prompt delivery or a medical issue that makes pushing a risk. Forceps cannot be used unless the baby has progressed far enough down the birth canal, and positioning is also a critical concern. If the baby is not properly positioned, it is not safe to use forceps.

Understanding the risks of hypertension during pregnancy

Florida residents may be unaware about the revised report provided by the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada that discusses hypertension. According to the organization, this common medical dilemma affects 2 to 3 percent of pregnancies and can be classified as preexisting or gestational. If additional pregnancy-related symptoms supported by test results exist, the classification can include the additional preeclampsia category.

Chronic hypertension occurs whenever the pregnant woman's blood pressure is over 140/90 mmHg either before becoming pregnant or before a 20-week gestation period. If hypertension is discovered during a less-than-20-week gestation period, elevations in blood pressure typically indicate that chronic hypertension is present. The opposite is true if elevated blood pressure is discovered after a 20-week gestation period. This typically indicates that preeclampsia is not a factor in the pregnancy. Up to 5 percent of all pregnancies are affected by preeclampsia. It also occurs in 10 percent of first-time pregnancies and in 20 to 25 percent of pregnancies in women who have had a history of chronic hypertension. Disorders of this type are a leading source of pregnancy-related deaths and cause risk to both the mother and child.

Medical malpractice and vicarious liability

Florida residents may be interested in whether a hospital may be held responsible when a patient is harmed during a medical procedure performed by a physician or surgeon at the facility. The health care entity may be named alongside the physician in a malpractice suit under the doctrine of vicarious liability or respondeat superior.

Vicarious liability is used in tort claims to hold the employer liable for the negligent acts of the employee if the actions took place during work and the employer benefited from that work. When used as part of a malpractice claim, the plaintiff might assert that the hospital had control over the physician. If the physician is employed by the hospital, then this control may be clear. If the physician is considered an independent contractor, as many surgeons are, the notion of control is less obvious.

Concerns rise for outpatient safety

For many people, going in for minor surgery means a trip to an outpatient center, not a hospital. These freestanding medical facilities, which are located throughout the state of Florida, offer convenience and lower costs. They have also given rise to safety concerns. The death of comedienne Joan Rivers during a routine outpatient procedure in New York brought notice of the outpatient safety issue to a national media stage.

Authorities investigating the incident discovered that Rivers had not been weighed before her procedure, and thus may have been subject to an anesthesia mistake. The center's records were not clear on how much anesthetic she received, the doctor performing the surgery was not credentialed, and the staff failed to take action while their patient's vital signs were deteriorating. Finally, Rivers was subjected to a procedure for which she had not given written consent.