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Thursday, March 31, 2016

A checklist for post-operative care: 25 minutes was too long

A 17-year-old girl, Mariah Edwards, had a routine tonsillectomy, with Fentanyl as a pain killer.  However, right after the outpatient surgical procedure, she stopped breathing, but no one noticed this for 25 minutes.  The only automatic monitors of her vital signs had been muted.  And no one saw her because a curtain had been pulled around the post-op bay.  She died days later from the lack of oxygen.  This tragedy could have been prevented with proper post-op monitoring and care.

Her family’s lawyers at Ross Feller Casey have posted online a free checklist of questions that patients or their advocates can ask beforehand to assure themselves that doctors and nurses will safely care for their family member.  This is particularly important because the first few hours after surgery are often the most risky due to the use of anesthesia, the delivery of pain medication, and other complications that can arise in the recovery room.

Don’t be shy about questioning credentials or asking about post-op care. You are putting your trust, medical health, and quite possibly your life, in the hands of these people, so it is absolutely appropriate that you want to know about their experience and what to expect in the recovery room. You can, and should, ask to talk to whoever will be participating in the operation. It’s not unreasonable to request to talk with the anesthesiologist, surgeon, and other members of the surgical team before any surgery is performed.

Remember, it is just as important to ask about what will happen after the surgery as it is to ask about the procedure itself. You can ask about anything that you find relevant to the operation and time spent in recovery. It’s a good idea to make a list of questions prior to surgery so that you don’t forget any.  Sometimes asking the right questions about post-op care can make the difference between a positive medical outcome and a tragedy.

Read another checklist story.  Thanks to Mario Cattabiani, the Director of Communications at Ross Feller Casey in Philadelphia and David Bernard of OutpatientSurgery.net for this story. 

Friday, March 25, 2016

Consistently taking non-daily medicine: When it’s time to replace it

I have a minor medical condition for which my doctor suggested an over-the-counter nasal spray, Flonase  (fluticasone propionate).  Sometimes, for months at a time I’ll take it daily, sometimes every other day, sometimes less often, which my doctor says is fine.  The bottle says it contains 120 metered sprays.  How to know when it’s time to replace it?

I keep a scrap of paper and a pen next to it in my bathroom, writing down the date as I administer it to myself each time.  I can count the dates I’ve written so I know when to get a new one.  By doing that, I don’t throw away a bottle with usable medicine, nor keep using a sprayer with no medicine.

This could be useful for anyone who wants to consistently take medicine.  It’s most useful for medications you’re taking on something other than a daily basis.  For daily medicine, a seven-day pill box organizer, or something similar, is probably more convenient.