When Nailah Winkfield took her thirteen-year-old daughter Jahi McMath to Children's Hospital & Research Center in Oakland, California, for a tonsillectomy, she thought it would be a short stay. Winkfield told CNN's Piers Morgan that when she walked Jahi into the hospital, she was perfectly fine.
After the surgery, Jahi woke up and asked her mother for a popsicle according to a CNN.com article dated December 19. Shortly thereafter, the teen started bleeding from her mouth and nose and Winkfield watched in horror as her daughter went into cardiac arrest. Doctors at the hospital later declared Jahi brain-dead and told Winkfield that they were going to take Jahi off of life support. Her parents are fighting the hospital's decision and asking for a little more time.
Although not 100% safe and not always necessary, tonsillectomy joins the list of other routine surgical procedures, such as appendectomy, cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal) and cesarean section. There are manu reasons why the consent form you sign at the hospital is so detailed. Although your surgeon may have performed this particular surgery thousands of times successfully, every patient is different. Your risk does not change because the person who was on the operating table before you survived.
Dr. Albert Wu, director of the Center for Health Services and Outcomes Research at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health told CNN.com that the most common post-surgery complications are bleeding, infection and damage to nearby tissue. Wu also said that certain patients are at greater risk during general surgery than others. Patients with pre-existing conditions like heart, lung or liver problems are more likely to suffer from complications or die. Obese patients are also at higer risk. A study published in 2012 showed that severely obese children undergoing tonsillectomies had an increased risk of complications during their surgeries.
According to a study published in September, medical errors also kill more than 200,000 people every year in the US. Dr. Peter Pronovost, senior vice president for patient safety and quality at Johns Hopkins Hospital, told CNN during a 2012 investigation into common medical mistakes that medical errors are probably the third leading cause of death in the country.
Patients should tell their surgeons their past experiences with surgery and anesthesia, whether they have any allergies, and if they are re prone to bruising or heavy bleeding. The most important question people should always ask is, 'Do I need this surgery/medical procedure?' In some cases having surgery or choosing to undergo any medical procedure is riskier than not having the surgery or not undergoing the medical procedure. You always have a choice.
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