We will conclude our series on avoiding and managing surgical complications with a few thoughts on “damage control.” We covered the importance of the patient care team, preparation, and surgical technique in order to avoid complications. Of course, despite our best efforts, complications still do occur. The next best thing to prevention is early recognition and management.
The key ingredient to early recognition is communication. We spend a lot of time informing patients of the risks of a procedure prior to surgery, but we must remind them of these risks so that they can be aware of any early warning signs. The hospital nurses and your office personnel should be intimately involved in these communications. This information should be given both verbally and in writing whenever possible; every patient has their own best learning method.
Once a complication has been recognized – whether intra-operatively or post-operatively – communication with the patient and the care team is the next step. Even with the smallest complication, this patient should be given the highest level of attention. Small complications can lead to bigger, yet avoidable complications.
After reviewing the chart and the events leading up to the problem, determine what evaluation and consultations are appropriate. Even if consultation is not necessary, solicit the opinions of your partners or other specialists. These efforts will ensure the best management of the complication and will reassure your patient that you are doing everything you can to get them back on track.