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Improper positioning during surgery can cause patients harm

Did you know that the position your body is placed in during surgery could determine how well you recover?

Proper patient positioning is a critical part of the surgical procedure -- when it's overlooked or mishandled, patients suffer unnecessary complications:

-- Circulatory issues can develop in the patient's extremities, particularly his or her legs, and a blood clot can quickly develop.

-- The anesthesiologist may not be able to properly administer the drugs, leaving a patient either too conscious or too sedated.

-- Patients under anesthesia may not get enough oxygen, which can cause cell death and brain damage.

-- The surgeon may not have the clearest view of the operating site, and it isn't an issue that can be corrected mid-surgery once it's discovered.

-- Pressure from the patient's own body can cause nerve injuries or pressure sores.

-- Poor positioning can cause increased bleeding during and after the surgery.

-- Inadvertent movement during surgery from poor positioning can cause disastrous results.

Patients who are improperly positioned can suffer severe damage, which is sometimes permanent. Some of the most common complications of poor positioning include joint dislocation, nerve damage, muscle and bone pain and deep tissue injuries to the skin.

The proper position for any given surgical procedure isn't necessarily the same for every patient. In order to choose the correct position, the patient's various risk factors should be assessed prior to surgery, including his or her age, weight, general health, mobility, chronic health problems, the type of surgery and the expected length of surgery.

While everyone in the operating room is supposed to be responsible for patient positioning, the surgeon may feel that it's the responsibility of the anesthesiologist. The anesthesiologist may feel that that the nursing team is responsible. The nursing team may feel that it's the shared responsibility of the surgeon and anesthesiologist -- they assume that if the patient isn't positioned correctly, someone higher up on the team will tell them. This sort of lack of communication leads to a disorganized surgical team and problems for the patient.

Do you believe that poor positioning during your surgery led to complications or injuries? If so, consider talking to an attorney who is familiar with surgical errors, and protect your right to compensation for your injuries.

Source:, "Positioning the Patient for Surgery," accessed May 31, 2017

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