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Can You Sue for Hospital Infections Acquired After Surgery?


Can you sue if you get an infection after surgery in Philadelphia?

If you or a loved one suffered from an infection following a surgical procedure, you might be entitled to compensation for a hospital-acquired infection. Residents of long-term care facilities and hospital patients going in for even the most minor surgical procedure are at risk of contracting a disease.

In this article, Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyer Heidi G. Villari explains how surgical infections occur, the requirements for successfully filing a lawsuit for hospital-acquired infections, how infections happen following surgery, how to identify a disease, and the types of surgical infections may be the result of medical malpractice.

If you or a loved one suffered an infection while hospitalized or in residential care, call The Villari Firm to discuss your case, free of charge. We will help you determine whether you can sue for your hospital-acquired infection.

Surgical Infections May Be the Result of Medical Malpractice

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on any given day in the United States, 1 in 31 hospital patients has at least one hospital-acquired infection. This number seems high with an emphasis on hand-washing and sterilization of instruments and surfaces. So how do these infections occur?

Occasionally, hospital-acquired infections result from medical malpractice, failing to adhere to cleanliness, sterilization, and sanitary protocols.

Filing a Lawsuit for a Hospital-Acquired Infections

Can you sue if you get an infection after surgery?

It depends on the facts. You might have grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit if you acquired an infection in the hospital. In Pennsylvania, this requires the affidavit of a medical expert stating they believe your infection was the result of medical malpractice. Your hospital infection lawyer will help you procure this.

Proving Malpractice or Negligence in Surgical Infections

Medical malpractice requires you to prove your medical care team, including the doctors, nurses, medical assistants, staff, and the hospital itself, owed you a duty of care that they breached, causing your hospital-acquired infection.

Your hospital infection lawyer investigates, finds the likely cause or causes of your infection, and identifies the parties responsible.

How Infections May Happen Following Surgery

Infections typically stem from catheter use, ventilator use, exposed surgical sites, central line malfunction, and other sanitary-based issues, including improper sterilization of tools and equipment. Either the hospital does not have or failed to enforce sanitary protocols, or hospital staff could not follow those protocols.

Central line Associated Bloodstream Infections

One of the most common hospital-acquired infections relates to central lines, which are types of catheters placed in the neck, groin, or chest, allowing medication and other fluids to travel directly into the patient‘s vein. Bloodstream infections happen when bacteria enter the bloodstream via the central line.

To avoid contamination, the medical team must follow strict guidelines when inserting a central line. They should wash their hands before putting on sterilized gloves and wear a mask, gown, and cap to reduce exposure to potential bacteria. After cleaning the site of insertion, the catheter is inserted and should be covered with clear plastic or gauze once it is in place.

Medical staff should examine a central line daily to ensure the catheter has not moved and there are no signs of infection at the insertion site.

For some patients, central lines remain in place for months, increasing the possibility of deadly bloodstream infections if the staff does not regularly inspect the site and monitor the patient for signs of infection.

Identifying an Infection After a Surgery

Symptoms of a hospital-acquired infection may appear any time from two (2) to 30 days following surgery.

Common signs of infection include:

  • fever
  • shortness of breath
  • productive cough
  • burning sensation when urinating
  • altered mental state
  • headache
  • nausea
  • diarrhea
  • redness or itching at the surgery or insertion site

Each patient and type of infection is different. Any physical abnormality or unusual sensation following surgery should get reported to your doctor.

Symptoms of Staph Infections

Staph infections frequently occur in hospital settings, usually at incision points with an opening in the skin, like the placement location of a catheter or chest tube. Symptoms include acne or skin flaking and stiffness or soreness of joints.

Symptoms of Sepsis

Sepsis is a severe condition resulting from an untreated infection. Signs of sepsis include a high heart rate coupled with low blood pressure. A patient with sepsis may become confused or disoriented and experience fever, discomfort, and shortness of breath. If left untreated, sepsis is life-threatening.

Types of Hospital Infections

Infection from Invasive Medical Devices

Any treatment involving invasive devices poses the risk of infection. For example, catheter-associated urinary tract infections and ventilator-associated pneumonia are unfortunately common in short-term and long-term hospital patients.

The CDC provides guidelines to help medical staff prevent ventilator-associated pneumonia by preventing bacteria from entering the ventilation catheter. Pneumonia is a severe lung infection that can be deadly.

Failing to adhere to insertion and inspection protocols of invasive devices resulting in infection may be actionable medical malpractice.

Staph Infections

Staph infections can quickly spread from one person to another, usually through skin-to-skin contact. Medical staff must take precautions to avoid transmitting a patient‘s infection to another patient or member of hospital staff.

Failing to adhere to sterilization and sanitary protocols resulting in a staph infection may constitute actionable medical malpractice.

Infection from Overuse of Antibiotics

The overuse of antibiotics can lead to a potentially life-threatening infection in the large intestine due to the bacterium called Clostridioides difficile. This is typically a problem in older adults living in long-term care facilities. According to the Mayo Clinic, approximately 200,000 people are infected every year due to the overuse of antibiotics.

Overprescribing antibiotics and failing to recognize the symptoms of a large intestine infection may be actionable medical malpractice.


Sepsis progresses quickly, and a patient‘s health can deteriorate in days, resulting in septic shock. That said, appropriate antibiotics and fluids can treat sepsis if caught early. However, fluid replacement therapy will not be successful if a patient enters septic shock.

Untrained, neglectful, or rushed hospital staff may not recognize the symptoms of sepsis shock. Patients who are not immediately treated may die. If a patient dies due to failure to recognize or treat sepsis, the patient‘s family may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit based on medical malpractice.

Talk with a Medical Malpractice Lawyer

Hospital-acquired infections and sepsis due to failure to adhere to sanitary protocols, delayed diagnosis, failure to monitor patients, and failure to treat patients properly are medical negligence that can result in severe injury or death.

If you or a loved one suffered a hospital-acquired infection, call the hospital infection lawyers at The Villari Firm for help. We can also help you with birth injury cases, medical negligence, catastrophic injury, and other medical malpractice cases.

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