Injury claims following heart bypass surgery has increased

Injury claims following heart bypass surgery has increased

This article was originally published on Stuff

The number of accepted injury claims due to infection from patients who have had bypass surgery is increasing, a report says. 

On December 21 the Health Quality & Safety Commission (HQSC) and ACC released a report on national cardiac surgery from April to June this year. 

The report discussed the surgical site infection intervention programme (SSIP), an HQSC project aimed to reduce harm caused to patients by surgical site infections (SSIs).

"Accepted treatment injury claims following coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery have increased over the last five years," the report said. 

ABG surgery, better known as heart bypass surgery, is a procedure that improved blood flow to the heart muscle when arteries have been blocked. 

In 2011 there were 46 treatment injury claims relating to infection following coronary artery bypass graft surgery for all District Health Boards, the report said.

The number of treatment injury claims were made up of claims that had been accepted or were considered "active", the report said.

Active claims meant the claim was open and payment was received in that calendar year, it said. 

From 2013 to 2014 the cost of active claims increased by 100 per cent from $56,352 to $124,635.

Last year 103 DHB claims related to infection were accepted - 57 of those were active claims and came to a total cost of $279,670.

HQSC chairman Professor Alan Merry said in ACC's publication on patient safety in April that "each accepted injury claim represents a person harmed".

"There is no room here for complacency," Merry said. 

ACC spokesman James Funnell said it was providing $1.1 million to support the SSIP.

"We support the programme because we want to address the rising number and cost of treatment injury claims for infection following surgery," Funnell said.

"Given there is evidence that many such injuries can be prevented, we want to invest in effective prevention programmes such as SSIIP."

HQSC infection prevention and control programmes clinical lead Sally Roberts said infection was associated with the surgical incision.

"It can occur at the site where a vein is harvested like the leg or at the chest incision site," Roberts said. 

The likelihood of getting an infection following heart bypass surgery is 4.6 per cent. 

In the report SSIs were categorised as superficial, deep or organ space. A superficial SSI occurred within 30 days of an operation and only involved skin and tissue under the skin of the incision. 

Deep SSI and organ space SSI occurred within 90 days of the procedure, the report said.

Deep SSI involved "deep soft tissues of the incision" while organ space SSI involved "any part of the body that was open or manipulated during the operative procedure," it said.

ACC's funding period for the surgical site infection intervention programme will run from February 2016 to June 2018.

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