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Unsanitary Surgical Instruments

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Updated August 24, 2020 | Medical Malpractice |


Surgical errors—such as operating on the wrong site or leaving an object in a patient’s body—can lead to severe medical complications for a patient. The use of unsanitary surgical instruments in one such error.

A doctor using tools that have not been properly sterilized can lead to cross-contamination of diseases, transmission of pathogens, or other infections. These complications can be fatal for patients, especially those with weak or comprised immune systems.

How the Sanitization Process Works

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), surgical instruments should be transported to a central facility to be sanitized, after which they are brought to the operating room as needed.

In the central facility, the tasks are divided into three main steps: decontamination, packaging, and storage. The CDC has recommendations on every part of the process, including airflow in the facility, pre-cleaning techniques, what personnel should wear, and how the items should be stored after sterilization.

Additionally, hospitals should have their own policies and procedures in place regarding how surgical tools are sanitized.

Circumstances Leading to Unsanitary Instruments

Unsanitary surgical instruments might come into play for a variety of reasons:

  • Insufficient sanitization policies and procedures
  • Failure of medical staff to follow sanitization policies and procedures
  • Improper packaging or storage of medical tools
  • Using instruments from a prior surgery before they have been sanitized
  • Reusing one-time instruments
  • Intentional misconduct

Regardless of why unsanitary surgical instruments were used, their use can have a significant impact on the patient.

Possible Results of Using Contaminated Medical Tools

Complications from the use of unsanitary surgical instruments can be severe. They include the following:

  • Extended recovery period
  • Sepsis
  • Loss of limbs
  • Organ failure
  • Infections such as HIV, syphilis, or hepatitis
  • Death

Surgical Instruments and Medical Malpractice

All surgical procedures come with the risk of infection. Medical malpractice cases of this type can be complicated, because you must show that an infection was caused by unsanitary surgical instruments and not as a side effect of the surgery itself.

However, doctors and hospitals have a responsibility to meet the standard of care for their patients—meaning that policies and procedures concerning the sanitization of surgical instruments must be developed and followed. If negligence was at play, your case might fall under medical malpractice.

Contact a Medical Malpractice Attorney Today

If you or a loved one have been a victim of medical malpractice, contact an Indianapolis Medical Malpractice Attorney from Wilson Kehoe Winingham. The lawyers at WKW can help you get the compensation you deserve. Call 317.920.6400 or fill out an online contact form for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

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