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Waukegan Medical Malpractice Attorneys

An act of medical malpractice can leave a patient suffering from a permanent disability, a worsened condition, or even a brand-new health condition. In some cases, acts of medical negligence leave patients dead.

Nearly all medical procedures have some risk of complications. It is the physician’s job to take care to avoid these complications and warn the patient about them thoroughly so the patient can determine whether a procedure’s benefits are worth facing its risks. Sometimes, specific medical devices are linked to complications in patients, yet remain in use because their value outweighs their potential complications. One such device is the heater-cooler, a device used to regulate a patient’s temperature during chest surgery. Since the device’s launch, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has received 339 reports of difficulties with the device from hospitals around the country. At least 15 people have died from infections from heater-coolers.

Why are Heater-Coolers Used and How Do they Work?

Heater-coolers are used to keep patients’ bodies at appropriate temperatures during chest surgery. They are used during heart bypasses, heart-valve replacements, and heart and lung surgeries.

A heater-cooler contains a tank of cool water and a tank of warm water. Tubes within the device move water through it, maintaining a constant temperature when cardioplegia is used to stop the patient’s heart during surgery. On one side of the device is its exhaust vent, where used air exits the circuit. This is where the infection risk lies.

Infection Risks with Heater-Coolers

Harmful bacteria can develop inside the tubes of a heater-cooler. Particularly, Nontuberculous Mycobacterium can develop and thrive, which can create infections with symptoms like nausea, vomiting, weight loss, abdominal pain, night sweats, fever, joint pain, and fatigue.

When the air is pushed through the exhaust vent, it can take this bacteria with it and spray the bacteria around the room. For a patient undergoing surgery or recovering, this bacteria can create a potentially-fatal infection. For doctors, nurses, another healthy individuals in the room, this bacteria is not a concern. But when a patient’s immune system is compromised, an infection can become serious.

What Can I Do if I Suffer from an Infection from my Heater-Cooler?

First, seek corrective treatment to treat the infection. You might need antibiotics to recover. Next, speak with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer about your infection and the damages you suffered as a result. You may have grounds for a defective product claim against the heater-cooler’s manufacturer. Currently, heater-coolers from five manufacturers have been linked to patient infections from the growth of bacteria inside their tubes.

Some responsibility might also lie with the doctor who placed the device or other healthcare providers, such as the hospital where your surgery was performed. If more than one party bears some responsibility for your infection, you could have grounds for more than one medical malpractice claim.

In any case, you will need to demonstrate that you suffered an infection because of the at-fault party’s negligence and that because of the infection; you suffered a permanent or disabling injury and specific monetary damages. A physician might be at fault for failing to discuss this risk with you before performing your surgery or a hospital might be at fault for knowingly stocking contaminated heater-coolers. Your lawyer can help you obtain the necessary evidence to support your claim, such as your medical record, records of your lost wages, and expert testimonies regarding the defective heater-cooler. Expert testimonies are testimonies from individuals whose professional expertise enables them to speak authoritatively about cases without having first-hand knowledge of them. In medical malpractice cases, expert witnesses are typically physicians.

Work with Our Team of Experienced Waukegan Medical Malpractice Attorneys

Healthcare providers have the duty to protect their patients from harm by exercising the proper standard of care for each procedure they perform. When a physician or another healthcare provider fails to uphold this responsibility, he or she is negligent and may be liable for the victim’s resulting damages. If you have suffered an illness, an injury, or a worsened condition due to negligence on the part of one or more healthcare providers, consider working with an experienced Lake County personal injury attorney to pursue monetary compensation for your damages through a medical malpractice claim. To learn more, contact our team at Salvi & Maher, L.L.C. today to schedule your initial consultation with us.

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