Surgical patients often not informed of less-invasive options

Hospitals often fail to offer safer, less costly alternatives to invasive surgical procedures, a recent study shows. Unnecessarily invasive surgery exposes patients to an increased risk of surgical complications such as infection and anesthesia errors, as well as increased recovery time and other health consequences.

According to a report published recently in JAMA Surgery, hospitals vary dramatically in the likelihood that they will offer patients minimally invasive options for procedures like appendectomies, lung surgeries or bowel surgeries. The study was based on an analysis of 80,000 surgical procedures that occurred in 2010.

Increased risk, recovery time and cost

Although not appropriate for every patient or every procedure, laparoscopic surgery offers a less invasive alternative to traditional, open-site surgical procedures in many cases. This method uses very small cameras and surgical tools inserted through a small incision in the abdomen and can often be used to minimize trauma, healing time and infection risk in procedures that would otherwise require larger incisions through muscles and other tissues.

When compared with patients who underwent invasive procedures, those who received less invasive treatments were able to leave the hospital nearly 1.5 days earlier on average, the researchers found. Those whose surgeries were less invasive also saved between $1,500 and $7,500 on average, depending on the procedure. The researchers found that up to two-thirds of those savings were the result of reduced complications.

Each year, as many as 440,000 patients die as a result of preventable medical errors in the hospital setting, according to estimates published in the Journal of Public Health in 2013. This figure includes deaths from surgical mistakes, adverse drug interactions, hospital-acquired infections, misdiagnosis and other forms of medical negligence. Not counted in that statistic are the many other patients who suffer serious, non-fatal harm due to mistakes or negligence on the part of their medical providers.

Legal remedies for medical harms

When a patient is harmed by the actions or inactions of a doctor, nurse or other health care provider in Iowa, he or she can often recover financial compensation by pursuing a medical malpractice claim in a court of law. Depending on the individual circumstances of the case, damages may include payment for resulting medical care, lost income and other harm. Talk to the experienced medical malpractice lawyers at Hixson & Brown, P.C. to learn more if you or a family member has suffered an illness or injury that may be the result of medical negligence.