Infections from outpatient procedures pose a serious risk

When most people think of surgery, they think of procedures that last hours and require at least one night in the hospital. In reality, many procedures are performed on an outpatient or ambulatory basis, meaning that they do not require a hospital stay. These sorts of procedures offer many advantages to traditional surgery in a hospital, including lower costs, more flexibility in scheduling and greater turnover times. While many outpatient procedures are considered to be low risk by medical professionals, a recent study indicates that there is still a chance of medical errors and complications, including infection.

In a recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers with the Agency for Healthcare Research Quality examined data collected in eight states – including New York, California, Florida and Georgia – on complications from outpatient procedures. The procedures in the study included hysterectomies, hernia repairs, tooth extractions, gallbladder removals, cataract surgeries and some orthopedic procedures.

Of the 284,098 surgeries that were part of the study, only about .05 percent of patients developed serious infections at the site of surgery. Overall, about three out of every 1,000 patients in the study developed an infection severe enough to require hospitalization within two weeks of their outpatient procedure. These infections are not only a problem for patients, but also for the healthcare system as a whole. According to a recent study published in the American Journal of Infection Control, infections at the site of surgery were responsible for approximately $900 million in costs in 2009 alone.

These numbers may seem low, but the findings are significant because of how common outpatient surgeries are in the U.S. The authors of the study offered a warning for both physicians and patients to take even seemingly simple outpatient procedures seriously and to think carefully about post-surgery instructions.

This study is also significant because it was one of the first to study the problem of surgical site infections arising as a result of outpatient procedures. Most previous research that has focused on this issue has examined only surgeries requiring a hospital stay.

The reality is that all medical procedures carry risks and, unfortunately, mistakes can happen. Depending on the circumstances, if you have been injured due to an error by a doctor, you may be entitled to compensation. If you have been injured, schedule a consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney to learn more about your rights.