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Investigating hospital acquired surgical site infection cases

Healthcare-Associated Infections (HAIs) and surgical site infections are infections caused by bacteria, fungi, or viruses that occur in patients who receive medical care, and linked to surgery, catheters, ventilation, and IV injections. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about 1 in 20 hospitalized patients develop an infection.

Hospital-acquired and surgical site infection are significant concerns for patient, and a cause of injury and death in the U.S., responsible for an estimated 1.7 million infections per year. The most serious complications are staph infections, pneumonia, bloodstream infections, surgical site infection (SSIs), and catheter-associated urinary tract infections.

In addition to serious injuries, patients may have claims against a doctor or hospital for pain and suffering, and the high cost of further medical treatment. There have been a concerning rise in antibiotic-resistant infections as well, which can lead to death.

Joe Lyon is an experienced medical malpractice attorney, well-versed in the science and economic impact serious surgical site infection have on the victim’s life and family. 

Types of Hospital-Acquired Infections

  • Surgical Site Infection (SSI): anything from a superficial skin infection to more serious, life-threatening organ infections. SSIs include necrotizing fasciitis—flesh-eating bacteria—fatal in 30 to 40 percent of cases.
  • Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE): antibiotic-resistant germs that cause fatal infections in 40 to 50 percent of victims.
  • Catheter-assisted urinary tract infections: maybe the most preventable of hospital infections, occurring when a catheter is left in a patient too long. A UTI is an infection of the urethra, bladder, ureters, or kidney.
  • Ventilator Infection: a lung infection that occurs in patients kept on a mechanical ventilator.
  • Clostridium difficile: a staph infection that causes severe diarrhea and estimated to cause 14,000 American deaths every year.
  • Meningitis: an infection around the brain and spinal cord.
  • Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA): a staph infection caused by bacteria resistant to standard antibiotics.
  • Sepsis: a bloodstream infection that can lead to an allergic reaction that can cause multi-organ system failure.

Symptoms of Surgical Site Infections

  • Surgical wound is red, swollen, and painful
  • Wound full of pus or discharge
  • Foul-smelling wound
  • Swelling around surgical area
  • Low-blood pressure
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea

Hospital Infections Cost Billions

JAMA Internal Medicine has published a study estimating that the U.S. healthcare system pays almost $10 billion a year to treat preventable hospital-acquired infections which cost taxpayers thousands of dollars per instance, including:

  • Surgical site infections: $21,000 per infection
  • Bloodstream infections: $45,000 per infection
  • Ventilator-assisted pneumonia: $40,000 per infection
  • Clostridium difficile: $11,000 per infection
  • Catheter-associated urinary tract infection: $900 per infection
photo of attorney Joe Lyon reviewing surgical site infection
A Voice for Those who have suffered

Why are these cases important?

 When management or individuals fail to provide a sufficient level of care, victims may seek legal recourse and file suit against the negligent parties. Medical malpractice lawsuits improve the quality of healthcare by holding physicians and hospitals responsible when they fall below a professional standard of care. 

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Questions about Medical Malpractice Cases

What is the most common cause of surgical site infections?

Infections after surgery are caused by germs and bacteria, such as Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, and Pseudomonas.

Can surgical Site infections be prevented?

The CDC recommends the following to help prevent hospital infection:

  • Family and friends who visit you should not touch the surgical wound or dressings.
  • Family and friends should clean their hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub before and after visiting you. If you do not see them clean their hands, ask them to clean their hands.
  • Make sure you understand how to care for your wound before you leave the hospital.
  • Always clean your hands before and after caring for your wound.
  • Make sure you know who to contact if you have questions or problems after you get home.
  • If you have any symptoms of an infection, such as redness and pain at the surgery site, drainage, or fever, call your doctor immediately.
Can I File a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?

Hospitals, medical staff, nurses and doctors are responsible for providing proper patient care. When management or individuals fail to provide a sufficient level of care, victims may seek legal recourse and file suit against the negligent parties.

Without medical malpractice laws, medical mistakes would go without consequence, patients would be uncompensated for preventable injuries, and medical providers would have less incentive to improve the medical system to prevent future injuries.

Despite the reports discussed above, frivolous claims brought by medical malpractice attorneys and runaway juries have been blamed as causing a medical crisis. There is no medical malpractice crisis, it is simply propaganda created by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and large insurance companies to pollute the American jury pool and change the law in a manner that is favorable to them and adverse to the average American. And sadly, it has worked.

Currently, 90 percent of juries side with the physician over the patient at trial. As a result, insurance companies are bolder than ever and refuse at times to settle even the most meritorious of cases knowing that the chances of the patient finding a fair and impartial jury is extremely low, especially in more conservative parties of the country such as Hamilton County, Ohio.

What is a “Never Event” in Hospital Care ?

The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 required that conditions be identified that (a) are costly and occur at high rates, (b) are assigned as cases to the Diagnosis-Related Group, and (c) could have ultimately been prevented with appropriate care. These hospital-acquired conditions occur as negligence on the part of hospital staff and often result in a multitude of medical malpractice lawsuits.

Conditions that meet the three requirements for identification:

What if a hospital makes me an offer directly?

Many hospitals and physicians are taking proactive approaches to resolve viable medical malpractice claims by approaching patients who do not have legal counsel. The “family meeting” presentation will include deterring patients from seeking legal counsel. This is a very concerning development in the course of medical liability and risk management.

We strongly advise patients not to engage in “family meeting” settlement negotiations without an experienced Cincinnati medical malpractice lawyer present. Hospitals and physicians have lawyers who are specialized in medical malpractice claims advising them on how to approach the case, and it is only fair that the patient is afforded the same benefit of qualified counsel.

The “family meeting” practice of settling hospital negligence cases without an attorney does not benefit the patient in most cases, but almost always benefits the negligent hospital.

Do not be deterred by a hospital representative implying that the case will be compromised if you seek counsel. While attorney fees will need to be paid, those costs should not be a deterrent. The Lyon Firm adopts a lower contingency fee structure and offers hourly rates for cases that can be resolved without litigation.

If the parties wish to resolve the matter, having qualified counsel on both sides is beneficial to the process. The goal should be a settlement where both parties are satisfied, not a case where the hospital pays substantially less than the fair value of the claim.

There are numerous issues that need to be considered before settling a medical malpractice case, and you should know what the fair value of the claim is before accepting a settlement.

The hospital knows the fair value having been involved in other cases. You as the patient should work with counsel who has successfully worked on other cases and can advise on the appropriate risk of future litigation and settlement value.

If a hospital is approaching you or a family member about a settlement without a Cincinnati Medical Malpractice lawyer, please call (800) 513-2403 for a free consultation.

Why hire the Lyon Firm?

Our Firm will help you find the answers.  The Firm has the experience, resources and dedication to take on difficult and emotional cases and help our clients obtain the justice for the wrong they have suffered. 

Experience: Joe Lyon is an experienced Medical Malpractice Lawyer. The Lyon Firm has 17 years of experience and success representing individuals and plaintiffs in all fifty states, and in a variety of complex civil litigation matters. Medical malpractice lawsuits can be complex and require industry experts to determine the root cause of an accident or injury. Mr. Lyon has worked with experts nationwide to assist individuals understand why an injury occurred and what can be done to improve their lives in the future. Some cases may go to a jury trial, though many others can be settled out of court.

Your Right to Safe healthcare
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A recently published study titled, A New, Evidence-based Estimate of Patient Harms Associated with Hospital Care, estimated that 210,000 hospital patients die each year from medical mistakes that could have been prevented.

This places medical malpractice as the third leading cause of death in the United States after heart disease and cancer. Further, the Office of The Inspector General estimated 180,000 deaths per year are due to medical mistakes. And a Study from Journal of Patient Safety estimated that the number of preventable deaths is between 210,000 and 440,000.

Incredibly, the Wrong Site Surgery Project Study found that national incidence of wrong site surgeries, which includes wrong patient, wrong procedure, wrong site and wrong side surgeries, may be as high as 40 per week. 

Our Victories

The Lyon Firm aggressively, professionally, and passionately advocates for injured individuals and families against companies due to a defective product or recalled product to obtain just compensation under the law. 



(Cincinnati, Ohio):  Confidential settlement for a family due to a wrongful death. An emergency room physician failed to recognize the common symptoms associated with bowel obstruction and prescribed a contraindicated medicine of GoLytley.  The patient died at home the day of discharge after taking the medication. The case against the emergency room physician was resolved by settlement following extensive discovery. The settlement was paid to the spouse and surviving adult children for the loss of their mother. While no amount of money could bring back their mother, the case provided answers and held the hospital accountable.


$910,000 Settlement.

(Cincinnati, Ohio):   Joe Lyon was second chair in a case involving the failure of a physician to promptly communicate a positive breast cancer result to a patient. As a result of the delay, the cancer progressed from in situ carcinoma to stage 3B with lymph node involvement. The treatment required mastectomy and radiation/ chemotherapy rather than a simple excision. The case settled after extensive discovery. The defense argued: “the patient should have called the physician.” The settlement provided recovery for suffering through a misdiagnosis and the loss of a spouse and a mother. While the settlement cannot bring this wonderful woman back, it helped her family move forward with life’s challenges and encouraged  future accountability.