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Positioning Injuries During Surgery

When patients undergo surgery, they generally don't consider the potential risk of injuries resulting from intra operative positioning. Intra operative positioning is the process of placing the patient in the most optimal position for surgery while minimizing discomfort and complications. Intra operative positioning is generally done by the nursing staff before and sometimes during a surgical procedure. Anesthesiologists share responsibility for positioning as do the surgeons who need to be aware, not only of the proper position, but the timing of surgery and the possible need to re-position the patient. When patient positioning is done incorrectly it can result in short-term or long-term health problems for the patient.

If a positioning injury occurs, you might want to think about consulting with one of our experienced Louisville medical malpractice lawyers.

Importance of Proper Surgical Positioning

The nursing team's role in preparing the patient for surgery is a critical element to the success of the surgery. Positioning, before, during and after the surgery is important for many reasons.

  • Positioning gives the surgical team a clear view of the surgical site
  • Positioning provides the best access to the surgical site for the surgeon
  • Positioning gives the anesthesiologist the best position for the optimal administration of drugs
  • Positioning can reduce bleeding before/during/after the surgery
  • Positioning decreases the risk of pressure and nerve related injuries
  • Positioning can prevent or reduce risk of respiratory problems (especially when anesthesia is involved)
  • Positioning prevents/reduces risks associated with circulatory issues

Again, it is not just the nursing team's responsibility to properly position, maintain position and re-position. The anesthesiologist and the surgeon share responsibility.

What Factors Contribute to Surgical Positioning?

Doctors and nurses need to consider such factors as patient body weight, age, height, type of surgery scheduled, duration of surgery, type of anesthesia to be administered, nutritional status, and any existing skin abrasions, or other physical conditions that could impact the patient during surgery. The patient's medical history and pre-existing medical conditions can also be significant.

Patients with diabetes, patients with circulation problems and patients with nerve issues are examples of patients that may require special considerations when positioning decisions are made. Based on these factors, doctors and nurses should choose the best pre surgery positioning and tools and padding. It may be necessary to reposition the patient if the surgery is lengthy so as to reduce pressure and stress on the body.

Based on the factors above, nurses may choose from the following basic surgical positions:

  • Supine – Patient is lying on his/her back
  • Prone – Patient is face down
  • Lateral – Patient is on his/her side
  • Lithotomy – Patients legs are lifted in stirrups from Supine position
  • Trendelenburg – Patient is Supine with head lower than feet
  • Reverse Trendelenburg- Patient is supine with head higher than feet
  • Kraske – Patient is face down with stomach in a jack-knife position
  • Fowler's – Patient is in sitting position
  • Knee-to-Chest—Patient's knees are pressed back to his/her chest

Contact a Medical Malpractice Attorney for Positioning Injuries

Any form of surgery carries some degree of risk, especially for surgical errors. It is important that the surgical team and the nursing team carefully assess these risks on a patient by patient basis and formulate a procedure to best address the medical need and minimize these potential risks. All members of the medical team are responsible for adhering to a reasonable standard of patient care. If this standard of patient care is neglected, patients may be exposed to unnecessary risk that leads to future health issues.

If you believe that you or a loved one suffered injuries due to faulty patient positioning, you may want to contact a Kentucky attorney that can analyze and determine the merits of your case. Brett H. Oppenheimer, a Louisville medical malpractice attorney, can help you with this process.

You can use our contact form to email Brett or call (502) 242-8877.