Potential for Complications from Surgical Procedures & Health Alterations

Instructor: Alyssa Campbell

Alyssa is an active RN and teaches Nursing and Leadership university courses. She also has a Doctorate in Nursing Practice and a Master's in Business Administration.

While surgical procedures have good intentions, operations are actually quite dangerous and may lead to negative outcomes. Read this lesson to learn about the most common surgical complications and how they might be prevented.

The Risk of Surgery

Surgical procedures are any type of procedure that requires an incision to make changes inside the patient's body. These procedures are also known as operations or operative procedures. As a nurse working in the hospital's operating room, Dale knows that each of her patients that she prepares for surgery is at great risk, even though the procedures are legitimate and warranted.

In Dale's experience, many changes have been made to prevent or minimize surgical complications that lead to negative outcomes. Unfortunately, they still happen at every part of the surgical process. Some of the most common surgical complications that Dale has seen in her tenure include:

  • Infections
  • Respiratory disease
  • Blood clots
  • Pressure injuries and ulcers
  • Falls

These complications are such an issue because aside from causing patients unnecessary stress and pain, many complications lead to an increased length of stay and more materials and supplies than originally expected.

Danger is Around Every Corner

Dale has many years of experience in the surgical suite, or operating area, and therefore is able to work between all three settings: pre-surgery, in the room of the actual procedure, and post-surgery. While each setting has its own defined space with designated tasks and duties to care for patients, all three settings are located within the surgical suite inside Dale's hospital.

Even though each setting has a good handle on the tasks required to care for patients, each unit poses specific risks to these individuals. Fortunately, understanding the various risks by patient area helps Dale and her colleagues minimize and reduce the risks of complications related to surgery.

Before the Operation

Prior to the surgical procedure, patients are prepped in a unit setting known as Staging or Pre-Op (short for Pre-Operative Unit). Because patients have been known to acquire infections during surgical procedures, Dale ensures that the patient receives their prophylactic, (precautionary) antibiotics. These antibiotics are administered intravenously and help safeguard the patient from common bacteria that sit on the skin. This way, even if bacteria enters the skin through a surgical incision, the antibiotic will most likely protect the patient from getting sick due to a surgical site infection.

During the Procedure

All surgical procedures occur in the Operating Room, or OR for short. The reason for this is because the OR is a controlled environment with sterile equipment and supplies and limits traffic to essential personnel and patients. These precautions also help to cut down on the incidence, or rate, of infection.

Dale also closely monitors the length of procedures to reduce the amount of time that a patient is laying on the hard OR table. This is important because reducing or minimizing the procedure time helps lower the total time that a patient is laying in one position, thereby reducing the chance of a pressure ulcer. Pressure ulcers occur when any part of the body is rubbing or laying against a hard surface, preventing blood from flowing to that area. Surgical patients are especially at risk for pressure ulcers due to their long and complex procedures. Knowing that some procedures cannot be shortened, Dale uses pressure relieving devices and positioning techniques during long procedures whenever possible to lower the risk of pressure ulcer development.

After Surgery

Once the procedure is finished, Dale transports the patient from the OR to a holding area. This area, referred to as Post-Op (Post-Operative Unit) or PACU (Post-Anesthesia Care Unit) is a place where the patient receives intensive care while they come out of anesthesia including, monitoring, assessments, and various interventions (techniques).

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