There are many factors that can cause surgical fatalities, and one of the lesser-known is acid reflux. Patients who suffer from gastrointestinal (GI) problems such as GERD, acid reflux, impaired gag reflexes, ulcers or other stomach ailments are at higher risk of gastric aspiration, a condition where the patient breathes stomach contents into the lungs while under anesthesia.

Some patients who aspirate vomit or bodily fluids during surgery may not experience any ill effects. However, this may quickly change after the patient is transferred to a recovery unit where the condition is allowed to progress without intervention.

Patients who suffer gastric aspiration will often develop pneumonia as a result of the fluid in their lungs. If they are not treated with antibiotics, patients may suffer lung abscess, shock, infection that spreads through the blood, and eventual fatal respiratory failure.

Additional Factors That Can Increase the Risk of Stomach Acid Aspiration During Surgery

  • Brain injury – Any damage to the brain, such as TBI, encephalopathy, or seizure disorder, can increase the risk of an aspiration injury while under anesthesia.
  • Physical factors – Pneumonia is likelier to be fatal for patients over 60-years-old, patients who required more than four units of transfused blood during surgery, and those who have a history of serious health conditions such as chronic lung disease and stroke.
  • Diet and habits – Obesity, frequent alcohol and tobacco use, regular use of steroid medications and eating before surgery are all suspected causes of aspiration pneumonia.

If you believe a stomach condition played a part in your loved one’s surgery death, you should have the circumstances investigated as soon as possible to find out if the hospital could be responsible. Contact our offices today to find out what to do first, or browse our related links to read more about anesthesia mistakes during surgery.

Mark K. Gray
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Louisville attorney serving the seriously injured in Kentucky

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