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Orange County, California Medical Malpractice: Hospital Delirium Can Be Prevented with Proper Medical Care

December 31, 1969

According to the New York Times, many cases of hospital delirium involving elderly patients can be prevented if only the proper medical steps are taken. Also, not only does this condition often go undiagnosed and, therefore, is not treated properly, but also, delirium can later to lead to other mental complications while potentially increasing the risk of death. Our Anaheim medical malpractice lawyers at Howard Law, PC wants to remind you that if you or someone you love suffered health complications that could have been prevented by a medical professional, you may have grounds for an Orange County, California personal injury case.

Hospital delirium is a brain dysfunction that is one of the more common complications that elderly patients can face. Common causes of hospital delirium include:
• Prescribing certain medications (including certain sleeping pills, sedatives, painkillers, allergy meds, incontinence medications, and blood pressure drugs.
• Anesthesia
• Immobilizing a patient
• Surgery
• Infection
• Pneumonia
• Catheter insertions

Of the 11.8 million elderly patients that are hospitalized annually, 20% of them will experience hospital delirium. Per the American Geriatrics Society, many of these patients had been treated in the ICU or underwent surgery.

Even if the delirium is short-lived, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine professor Dr. E. Wesley Ely reports that the consequences may be long-term. Image scans of patients that suffered from delirium showed a change in brain size. Not only can delirium cause mental impairment and long-term memory loss, but also the risk of death may rise threefold.

Yet despite the fact that hospital delirium is not uncommon, Harvard Medical School Professor and Aging Brain Center at Hebrew Senior Life director Dr. Sharon K. Inouye says that many doctors, especially those belonging to the older generations, are still not aware that 30-40% of incidents of hospital delirium are preventable.

"Proper diagnosis, treatment, and supervision are integral when providing medical care to hospital patients," says Howard Law, PC founder and Anaheim personal injury attorney Vincent Howard. "Over the years, we've talked to too many people whose condition deteriorated or suffered health complications due to medical negligence or ignorance."

Possible Signs of hospital delirium:
• Disorientation
• Problems focusing
• Inattention
• Confusion
• Illogical thinking
• Difficulty paying attention
• Agitation
• Aggressiveness
• Anxiety
• Lethargy
• Problems making eye contact
• Muddled thinking
• Confusion
• Inability to answer basic questions

The New York Times notes that it is also important that medical professionals be able to tell the difference between delirium and dementia.

Some ways to treat hospital delirium:
• Proper fluids and nutrition
• Reorientation techniques to help the person get grounded in reality again
• Creating a familiar, quiet environment so the patient can recover
• Correcting sensory deficits with hearing aids and glasses
• Avoiding physical restraints
• Close observation and supervision
• Psychiatric counseling

That said, treating delirium can be costly and may lead to extended hospital stays, an increased chance of later developing dementia, and additional care at a nursing home or rehab center.

"It is essential that people know about hospital delirium and understand that this condition can be prevented," said Anaheim personal injury lawyer Vincent Howard. "One way of doing this is holding that party or parties that caused such health complications accountable for Orange County, California medical malpractice so that they don't make the same mistakes in the future."

Another Hospital Hazard for the Elderly, New York Times, November 2, 2011

Delirium treatment and management, Medscape

Hospital delirium is common and often goes unrecognized, reports Harvard Women's Health Watch, Harvard Health Publications

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Fullerton and Mission Viejo Hospitals Fined For Morphine Overdose and Surgical Error, California Injury Lawyers, December 9, 2011

Convicted of Involuntary Manslaughter, Dr. Conrad Murray Still Faces Los Angeles Wrongful Death Lawsuit Over Michael Jackson's Fatal Overdose, California Injury Lawyers, November 8, 2011

$10M California Medical Malpractice Settlement Awarded to Family of Toddler Who Underwent Amputations Following 5 Hour ER Delay, California Injury Lawyers, October 29, 2011

To schedule your free case evaluation, contact Anaheim medical malpractice attorney Vincent Howard today.