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Study Shows Seniors Are More Likely to be Hospitalized After Outpatient Surgery

Jan 27, 2016 Brown Moore Medical Malpractice

As a general rule, patients go to ambulatory (also known as an outpatient) surgical centers for procedures related to relatively minor medical conditions. Upon completion, they return home for post-procedure care. They may need to see their medical providers again for observation or follow-up, but they typically do not expect to go to the hospital for related emergency care.

Unfortunately, our Charlotte medical malpractice lawyers typically see more cases of hospitalization when outpatients are older individuals, and a July 2015 report from the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society seems to reveal the same. The real question is whether these cases point to the fragility of older patients — or whether medical negligence may play a role.

Pre-Op Physical Condition is Not a Factor in Post-Op Hospitalizations

The study looked at nearly 1,400 hospital admissions that followed approximately 54,000 outpatient surgeries. It showed that patients age 65 and older had a 54 percent greater likelihood of post-operative hospital admission, regardless of their state of health prior to their procedures.

It is important to note that elderly individuals who are in good physical health are more likely to have cognitive issues when compared with their younger counterparts. In some cases, they can appear to fully understand the post-operative instructions that are essential when they return home. When left to care for themselves, however, they can make serious errors, such as the following:

  • Overdose on opioids.
  • Take antibiotics incorrectly, limiting the ability to heal
  • Fail to properly care for wounds, causing infections
  • Ignore symptoms that require a call to the doctor.

On the surface, it may appear that these patients are fully responsible for their unexpected hospital visits after undergoing outpatient procedures. But these situations may also be a question of whether medical providers did enough to help ensure safe in-home treatment.

Medical Providers Need to Provide a Reasonable Standard of Care

Not every post-surgical hospital visit represents a case of medical negligence, but medical providers need to carefully review their patients’ abilities to help ensure they receive the care they need when they return home. This includes any or all of the following:

  • Making sure the written post-operative instructions are clearly written and asking patients to confirm their understanding of what they need to do when they return home
  • Ensuring that patients have a responsible individual at home with them to handle any post-operative care that they cannot do without assistance
  • Requiring that patients who need more assistance get their procedures performed on an in-patient basis in a hospital so they get the professional care they need

When outpatient health care workers fail to meet these basic standards, a post-procedure emergency hospital visit may be a sign of medical malpractice. Patients may have the right to pursue compensation to help pay for the additional expenses that might have been avoided with reasonable care. Patients of any age who find themselves in a similar situation should call us at 800-948-0577 or use our convenient online contact form for an assessment of their legal options.