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Tonsillectomy causes fatal brain injury for teenager

Kentucky residents may have heard that according to a teenage tonsillectomy patient's mother, her daughter began bleeding from the nose and mouth shortly after awakening from the surgery before going into cardiac arrest. Attending physicians eventually pronounced brain death and announced plans to remove life support not long after. That decision was apparently overruled by parental objection with requests for more time.

According to American Academy of Otolaryngology data, tonsillectomy is the third most frequently performed surgery on children. The frequency that surgeons must perform certain surgeries does not guarantee safety, as evidenced by detailed consent forms that patients must sign prior to any surgery; each patient is unique, and prior outcomes do not impact prognoses for the same procedure on other patients.

Common complications of surgeries include hemorrhage, infection and adjacent tissue damage. In tonsillectomies, for instance, removal of two small ovular pads by burning connective tissue could result in small nicks to nearby arteries. Moreover, pre-existing medical conditions like obesity or heart, liver or lung problems can lead to higher risks for tonsillectomy patients.

Study findings that were released in September revealed that more than 200,000 deaths occur annually in the U.S. due to medical and surgical errors. One medical authority reportedly stated that such errors are probably the nation's third leading cause of death.

Catastrophic brain injuries caused by medical mistakes can lead to permanent disability, total or partial paralysis and even death. Patients or the families of those who suffer severe injuries during post-surgical recovery might choose to file claims against the medical care provider in order to hold such entities responsible for failing in their duties. Such claims might allow the families to recover financially after being medically devastated.

Source: CNN, "When routine surgeries go wrong", Jacque Wilson, December 19, 2013

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