Investigation prompts debate over infant heart surgery

On Behalf of | Jan 18, 2016 | Surgical Errors

Expectant parents in New Mexico and around the country may believe that the quality of medical care provided by hospitals is generally consistent, but an investigation by CNN has revealed wide discrepancies in the level of infant care in American medical facilities. The investigation was prompted by a series of deaths among infants who had undergone heart surgery at a Florida hospital, but medical professionals have since come forward to say that the problem is actually far more widespread.

The Florida hospital that was the focus of the CNN investigation has since stopped performing heart surgery on infant children, but some surgeons who are called in to try to save babies after botched operations say that many other hospitals make similar mistakes. They say that working on an infant heart no larger than a strawberry requires very different skills than traditional open heart surgery, and they point to significantly lower survival rates among children who undergo heart surgery in some hospitals as proof of their claims.

A particularly challenging procedure performed on newborns is called the Norwood after the pioneering surgeon who developed it. When the complex procedure is performed on infants by veteran pediatric cardiologists, the fatality rate is about one in 10, but an October 2015 report that appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association found death rates as high as 40 percent in hospitals with less experienced staff.

While medical malpractice cases are rarely straightforward, it is sometimes fairly evident that a mistake occurred. Doctors may have a difficult time explaining why they performed surgery on the wrong body part, but establishing negligence in cases involving inexperienced surgeons could be more of a challenge. In these medical malpractice cases, personal injury attorneys may call upon more seasoned surgeons to explain the nature of the procedure concerned and assess the experience of the medical professionals involved.


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