Articles Posted in Surgical Complications

America is one of only two countries in the world where the rate of deaths during pregnancy increased between 1990 and 2018. In an exhaustive expose in National Geographic, the news magazine details the causes of the country’s high rate of death for pregnant women, the widening racial disparity, and the progress meant to help alleviate the unnecessary and tragic problem. Given the increased attention to the issue in recent years, public health advocates are hopeful the trend will begin reversing itself in the next few years.

Overall, 700 women die each year giving birth in the United States – a rate of approximately 14 deaths per 100,000 births. However, this data does not show the wide racial disparities in the maternal death rate. For black Americans, the likelihood of dying during birth is more than three times higher than the average at 47 maternal deaths per 100,000 births. Native Americans also have a higher maternal death rate at almost 39 per 100,000. Comparatively, Hispanic and Asian American women have a lower-than-average rate of maternal deaths at 12.2 and 11.6, respectively. Researchers and public health advocates say the high maternal death rates are directly linked to a woman’s ability to access adequate prenatal healthcare – with almost 9 percent of black Americans receiving no prenatal care before giving birth. The research found a full 60 percent of the maternal deaths last year were fully preventable. Continue reading

The new documentary “Bleed Out” provides an infuriating first-hand account of a routine surgery that went horribly wrong and changed a woman’s life. The documentary, which was released on HBO this month, dives into the third most common killer of Americans – preventable medical errors. According to a study released by Johns Hopkins University, medical errors kill 250,000 Americans each year.

The harrowing documentary follows Judie Burrows, who went in for a routine hip replacement surgery almost a decade ago and is now unable to speak, broke, and suicidal. According to her son, Steve Burrows, comedian and documentarian, his mother fell down in November 2009 and broke her hip. After spending eight days in a Wisconsin hospital without any plan of care, the hospital finally performed X-rays and rushed the woman into heart surgery. Unfortunately, the doctors in charge of caring for Judie did not consider her daily blood-thinner medication and the patient ended up losing half of her blood during the surgery.

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Doctors accused of medical malpractice or other unprofessional conduct in another state may still be able to practice in New York State. In a report analyzing 250 doctors accused of professional misconduct, USA Today found that doctors accused of running pill mills, were found liable for medical malpractice, and engaging in inappropriate relationships with their patients, are still practicing medicine – just in a different state. In most states, including New York, a doctor who voluntarily surrenders his license in a different state is not automatically disqualified from practicing medicine.

Unlike most states, however, New York even allows some doctors with felony convictions to practice medicine. Under New York’s licensing scheme for doctors, a medical board is allowed to approve or deny a doctor’s license to practice medicine in the state based on their own criteria. In circumstances where a doctor voluntarily relinquishes his or her license in another state, there is rarely a “paper trail” describing any misconduct. According to LoHud.com, some states do not track allegations of misconduct against doctors and other states do not make the information available to licensing boards in other states. This haphazard system undoubtedly endangers these doctor’s patients.

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Continuing the state’s decade-long decline, New York ranked a dismal 48th in overall patient safety. The rankings, which are released twice each year by the non-profit organization Leapfrog Group, compile data from hospitals across the country and measure the rate of medical errors, infections and injuries, and patient satisfaction, to determine each hospital’s ranking. Since Leapfrog Group began ranking patient safety in 2012, New York has fallen from 40th worst state in the country to 48th.  In the tri-state area, Connecticut also ranks low for patient safety while New Jersey ranks among the best states in the country.

According to Leapfrog, the worst hospitals in the state are located in New York City and upstate. In fact, five of the 20 hospitals across the country that received an “F” from Leapfrog are located in the five boroughs. In the Hudson Valley, the hospital results were mixed. Here are Leapfrog’s patient safety ratings for the local-area hospitals:

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A Texan surgeon is going to spend the rest of his life in prison because of his horrific incompetence on the operating table. The almost unbelievable case follows Doctor Christopher Duntsch who managed to maim 32 of his patients. Nicknamed by local newspapers as “Dr. Death,” the criminal conviction shows how a broken system allowed a deranged, drug-addled, and incompetent doctor to harm so many of his patients.

After studying medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Duntsch moved to Dallas where he worked at Minimally Invasive Spine Institute, a $600,000-a-year job that only lasted a couple weeks. After leaving the institute, the deranged doctor moved to Baylor Regional Medical Center in Plano. Less than a year into his stint at the prestigious hospital, colleagues begin to describe surgeries gone horrifically wrong. Concerned about excessive blood loss, one surgeon told The Dallas Morning News that he grabbed  Duntsch’s medical instruments to stop him from operating. Another doctor described one surgery as “pathetic on what should have been a fairly easy case.”

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Across the United States, women giving birth are now almost three times more likely to die than they were just three decades ago. In a new report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United States now leads the developed world in maternity mortality. Tragically, the majority of these deaths fall upon poor women and women of color. Perhaps even worse, the study shows that the majority of these deaths are completely preventable. With the increased attention on infant mortality rates in recent years, it appears medical professionals and researchers need to focus their efforts on improving the health of both the pregnant mother and the infant.

The wide-ranging report published by the government agency surveyed nine states to identify the characteristics and causes of maternal deaths, and consequently provide recommendations for reducing the nation’s shamefully high mortality rate. After collecting data from the states, the CDC reports that almost 60 percent of maternal deaths are preventable. The most common causes of death among all Americans were hemorrhaging, cardiovascular and coronary conditions, and infections.

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In response to an increase in superbugs, medical centers are taking an aggressive stance by implementing strict hygiene standards and educating patients about antibiotic resistance. Superbugs are bacterial infections resistant to medical treatment, such as antibiotics. A global increase in the number of antibiotic prescriptions coupled with a lack of new antibiotics produced in the last few decades created strains of bacteria resistant to antibiotics. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, superbugs (and antibiotic resistance, more generally) present one of the world’s “most pressing public health problems.”

Filled with infectious diseases and compromised immune systems, hospitals are a breeding ground for superbugs and their patients are uniquely susceptible. Thankfully, hospitals are stepping up and setting new standards to prevent the spread of infection. In an article by the Wall Street Journal, several hospitals detail new procedures meant to improve hygiene and stop germs from spreading. In addition to routine hand washing, medical staff at these hospitals also clean stethoscopes, blood pressure cuffs, IV poles and pumps, bed railings, and computer keyboards. Stethoscopes, in a surprise to hospital staff interviewed by the WSJ, usually carry the same number of germs as a doctor’s hands after just a single physical examination.

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After a lack of response from management, a group of nurses is going public about the poor treatment of patients at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx. Speaking to The Daily News, the nurses describe “horror stories” of overcrowding, understaffed medical personnel, unsanitary conditions, and a management structure who seems oblivious or unconcerned about these serious problems. The deteriorating quality of care at the Bronx hospital endangers both patients, who are more likely to become sick with infectious diseases, and nurses, who are frequently attacked by mentally ill residents at the hospital.

In response to the allegations of overcrowding, understaffing, and inadequate medical care, a Montefiore spokeswoman pointed towards the Bronx hospital’s high ranking on Indeed.com – a website where employees review their employer. While Indeed may believe Montefiore is a pleasant work environment, their nurses disagree and, according to The Daily News, they have ample evidence. In one example, emergency room patients wait an average of 64 minutes before meeting with a healthcare professional – almost double the national average.

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After the rapid pace of consolidation in the healthcare industry over the past decade, many patient advocates are beginning to study the effects of these mergers and acquisitions on the quality of patient care. While many of the business executives in charge of these restructurings tout improved patient health as a benefit, it appears the opposite may be true – at least in the short-term – for many patients. The study, which was reported by STAT, found that new patient populations, unfamiliar infrastructure, and new settings for physicians caused the bulk of problems related to possible declines in patient health after a hospital merger.

Since 2014, there have been more than 100 hospital or healthcare mergers each year. Last year alone, there were 115 mergers and this trend is likely to continue. For that reason, it is important to learn about its effects on patient care. After thoroughly reviewing several randomly chosen mergers and acquisitions, STAT found a disturbing pattern of patient neglect. In two examples, a surgeon and an anesthesiologist ended up in the wrong part of the hospital after being summoned for a time-sensitive procedure. In another example, an ER doctor was given only thirty minutes of training before being put to work in an Emergency Room. According to STAT, “[The Doctor] had not been brief on how to obtain backup help in the case of an unexpected emergency.” Therefore, when multiple ambulances arrived with several critical patients, the hospital was overwhelmed and ineffective in treating the majority of patients. In all of these circumstances, the hospital had reorganized itself and not properly trained the medical staff at the hospital.

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Patient neglect causes serious issues in hospitals throughout the country, including pressure ulcers, falls and medication errors. However, a new company is attempting to gather data about patients using artificial intelligence which will, hopefully, led to fewer patients neglected in hospital rooms. The new sensor from start-up Inspiren is currently on trial at a hospital in Queens.

The sensor, which is roughly the size of a thermostat and possesses a glowing ring, will attempt to accurately report when a patient is “checked on” by a nurse or hospital staff member. While common procedure across the country, “hourly” check-ins by nurses are not uniformly followed when the hospital or staff are busy. The sensor, which is named “iN” will sit on a wall and monitor when a staff member enters and leaves a room. If the “iN” glows green, then the patient has been checked on recently. Unsurprisingly, yellow and red serve as warning signs that a patient may need assistance. Unsurprisingly, iN will come with an app notifying nurses whenever a patient has not been checked on in an hour.

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