We have heard clients tell us that their doctor told then over and over again that they should have patience and with time their condition would improve and it didn’t and they waited and waited and finally went to see someone else who said: “You should have come to see me sooner, now I can do nothing. It is too late!”

The questions:

  • How long do you wait?
  • When do you seek another opinion?
  • How do you optimize your medical care?

Obviously there is no set time as every condition is different and every condition has with it different parameters that have to be considered and followed. However at the same time each condition has within it certain parameters that do not fit for everyone but can be guidelines.

For example: Some surgeons will advise their patients to eat only non-fat food for 4-6 weeks after gall bladder surgery. For some patients they may feel fine before the 4 weeks end and for others a couple of weeks after the 6 week time ends is better and for still others fatty foods may not agree with them for a longer period of time. The 4-6 weeks are a guideline, nothing more and nothing less. You can go onto web sites and see the recommendations of individual physicians, the federal government and certain hospital systems. You can see how you fit into the situation.

Under other circumstances waiting is not an option and will not improve the situation.

In speaking with a colleague last week we discussed the fact that over the years we have had about 7 cases in which a patient had spine surgery and then developed a hematoma in the area of the surgery which led to pressure on the spinal cord and ultimately permanent damage. The surgeons did not respond to the symptoms in a timely fashion. Had the surgeon responded the problem could have been found and corrective measures taken resulting in no permanent injury.

Sometimes the response has to be in hours, sometimes days but always a finite period of time.

How long do you wait?

Think about what the surgeon told you to expect prior to the operation. Think about what you may have read about your condition and the expected outcomes. If there is something unusual, something out of the ordinary make sure your voice is heard and get answers. You do not wait as long as you are told, you wait only so long as waiting makes sense.

In my example of back surgery with a subsequent hematoma the symptoms will become noticeable and more severe as the fluid collects and presses on the spinal cord. If the fluid collects rapidly then the symptoms will occur rapidly and if the fluid collects over time then the symptoms will appear more slowly.

However, in each and every case they are symptoms that if they appear immediately after surgery should disappear rapidly, and if they appear after surgery and linger then there is a problem. In my back surgery cases, symptoms could be numbness and changes in sensation in the lower legs. Symptoms might include continuing problems with urination and bowel function in the days after the surgery that don’t disappear.

Get a second opinion when the information you are receiving no longer makes sense. use your judgment. You will optimize your medical care by asking questions and making sure that you get answers that make sense. Continuing pain does not make sense. New symptoms don’t make sense. Problems that don’t end do not make sense.

To consider the fact that one attorney has successfully handled 7 such cases in a career is in one way absurd. Why haven’t the surgeons and their staff learned about the problem and become more aware so that the permanent damage to their patients can be prevented.

We have two sayings about malpractice. The same physicians commit errors over and over again. The same errors are committed by different physicians over and over again. The bad physicians are not removed from the practice of medicine. Physicians do not learn from the errors of their colleagues and new patients are injured.

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