It's easy to picture negligent doctors or incompetent medical staff when you think of the defendants in malpractice lawsuits. But the truth is that sometimes patients are injured not through any fault of the doctors or nurses, but by medical devices that should be safe and helpful, but turn out to be dangerous instead. Just as any other product manufacturer can be held legally responsible for defective products, medical device manufacturers can be held responsible for faulty surgical equipment. Take a look at a few products that have caused problems for patients and find out what to do if you've been harmed by medical or surgical devices.
Robot-assisted surgery sounds like a remarkably high-tech medical advancement. And it is! The idea behind the robots is to provide a highly precise, remote-controlled surgical procedure that can be performed with just a tiny incision, reducing scarring and recovery time for the patient. It's a terrific innovation – when it works.
Unfortunately, when it doesn't work, the results can be disastrous. Lawsuits filed by patients or family members after robot-assisted surgeries allege that the robotic devices led to life-threatening and fatal complications. Many of the complaints allege that the complications stem from burns that are apparently caused by the robotic devices' tendency to shoot sparks. What's especially problematic is that these burns – often on internal tissues or organs – are not necessarily immediately visible to doctors. Delayed treatment after such an injury could end up being even more damaging than the initial injury.
Surgical mesh is a sterile, plastic-like woven material that has a number of useful applications during surgery. It's commonly used to repair hernias or to hold prolapsed organs in place. It can also be used to treat incontinence in some patients. This is a very useful material, but when it doesn't work as intended, the side effects can be dire.
One particular type of surgical mesh – transvaginal mesh, used for women who have a prolapsed uterus or who suffer from stress incontinence – had at least 4,000 complaints reported to the FDA in the period between 2005 and 2010. The complaints include very serious side effects like erosion, which occurs when the mesh wears away the tissue of an internal organ, and organ perforation, which occurs when the mesh actually penetrates a hollow organ like the bladder or bowel. These problems can usually be fixed by removing the mesh, but mesh removal is a difficult and dangerous procedure that can require multiple surgeries. Even with multiple surgeries, it's not always possible to remove all mesh – the mesh is designed to allow the body's natural tissues to grow around it, and as a result, it's often too deeply embedded to remove entirely after it's been in place for awhile.
Surgical Warming Blankets
Blankets probably sound like the most innocuous surgical instrument possible. Operating rooms (and hospital rooms generally) are often kept cold due to the machinery in the rooms, and anesthesia and the shock of surgery can cause patients to have chills. Surgical warming blankets are simply sterile, thin blankets that are inflated with a forced-air machine and used to keep the patient warm. It's hard to imagine that they could be dangerous.
However, malpractice lawsuits against one manufacturer of surgical warming blankets shows that they can be dangerous. In one case, the plaintiff alleged that pathogens from the operating room were introduced into the surgical site via the forced-air blanket. The patient contracted an antibiotic-resistant infection in the joints that required several subsequent surgeries to treat and caused permanent joint damage. The lawsuit further alleges that the manufacturers knew of and concealed the dangers of their device.
The best time to find out about the potential dangers of surgical devices is before you have surgery. You should always research any surgical devices that your doctor is recommending. However, as a patient, you can't be expected to foresee problems caused by defective devices, and if you're injured by one, you should be compensated for your losses. If you think that you've suffered an injury from a robotic surgery, a surgical mesh, a warming blanket, or some other device, an attorney specializing in malpractice and medical device lawsuits can help you pursue that compensation.
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