Malpractice Can Result from Contaminated Surgical Instruments

May 29, 2013
By on May 29, 2013 11:45 AM |

Surgery malpractice can happen anywhere: hospitals, dental clinics and plastic surgery centers, among others. Although there is always a risk for medical malpractice when someone undergoes surgery, some complications and injuries are preventable.

Medical negligence can be the result of not only human error, but also using contaminated surgical instruments. If this happens, it could lead to a patient filing a claim against the parties responsible.

Surgery Malpractice Injuries from Contaminated Surgical Instruments

One of the biggest risks of using unsterile equipment is an infection. At the very least, it could lead to pain and swelling. But infections can create a host of other debilitating or life-threatening complications that even require second or subsequent surgeries.

HIV, hepatitis C and hepatitis B are serious infections that contaminated instruments can spread and sometimes can be attributed to surgery malpractice. HIV causes a weakened immune system, which can lead to numerous other types of infections, cancers and diseases.

Hepatitis C can cause cirrhosis (scarring of the liver's tissue), liver cancer or liver failure. These liver problems can occur with hepatitis B, but hepatitis B it also can result in kidney complications, including kidney failure.

Surgery Malpractice Caused By Human Error

Tissue, blood, bone, flesh and other debris can contaminate surgical instruments. Rust can make tools porous and unable to be properly sterilized.

One cause of contaminated instruments is that those who are responsible for sterilizing the tools aren't professionals (technicians). They may be underpaid workers who lack training. However, this is no excuse for surgery malpractice. It is the responsibility of the healthcare providers to be sure that their workers have appropriate training.

Another cause is that surgical teams may need these instruments quickly. So shortcuts in sterilizing may take place (skipping steps in the cleaning process), which results in them not being thoroughly cleaned. Again, this can be considered medical malpractice because the injured person visiting the hospital cannot be charged with ensuring all these safety measures are met.

If the instruments sit too long before they are cleaned, contaminants can harden. This makes it much more difficult (it not impossible) to clean them properly. Presoaking potentially could help avoid contamination.

If the instrument isn't disassembled, then parts of it might not be reached during the cleaning process. This is yet another possible cause for unsterile instruments.

All of these causes point responsibility for surgery malpractice toward those who work in the medical setting where surgical procedures take place. Not only sterilization workers, but also the surgical team or the facility itself could be liable.

Causes of Contaminated Surgical Instruments: Manufacturing/Designing

Human error isn't the only cause of contaminated surgical instruments; errors in the manufacturing of cleaning devices or the instruments themselves could be at fault. In this case, liability may be found with a manufacturer or others involved in the chain of distribution.

Sometimes mechanical cleaning devices are used. However, if the device is faulty or isn't designed in a way to clean effectively, this could prevent an instrument from being properly sterilized.

Manufacturers are responsible for providing detailed instructions for reusable instruments. When these instructions are incorrect or absent, it could be another cause of manufacturer liability.

If an instrument is designed in a way that it can't be properly cleaned, then it should never be put on the market. This can sometimes happen when device testing is inadequate.

If, after a surgical procedure, a patient develops complications that appear to be caused by some type of negligence, it might be in the person's best interest to consult Cleveland malpractice attorneys. The Becker Law Firm is primarily focused on medical malpractice cases, and the malpractice attorneys may be able to assist with filing a claim for surgery malpractice.