Man emerges from hip surgery with 10-cm burn injury

Published: 25 December, 2012 07:27 IST | Naveen Nair |

A pad placed to prevent excessive bleeding during the procedure at KEM Hospital got overheated and burnt the patient's left thigh; when it was pointed out to doctors, they tried to pass it off as a bedsore; injury was treated six days after operation

After spending months painstakingly collecting funds for a surgery, a 35-year-old man who has suffered from crippling pain for four years was wheeled into the operation theatre (OT) at KEM Hospital for a right hip-replacement surgery on December 19. Any relief that he might have felt at the completion of a long and trying process of treatment disappeared within hours of being wheeled out, when the man realised that the surgery to fix his hip had left behind something that he hadn’t bargained for — a large burn injury on his left thigh.

Singed by surgery: Cautery pads are usually placed to prevent excessive bleeding, but some kind of technical snag heated them excessively during Anwar’s surgery, burning a large patch of his skin. Pic/Naveen Nair

What’s more, doctors involved in the surgery were oblivious of the matter, learning of it only after the patient complained of pain and a burning sensation. When the injury was subsequently reported, the junior doctors allegedly tried to pass it off as a bedsore, but later admitted to their negligence.

Trying times
Anwar Badshah (35) a resident of Mumbra, worked as a driver. Four years ago, he started experiencing pain while walking or sitting, and so consulted several doctors, but there was no improvement in his condition. After being bed-ridden for almost four years, he finally approached doctors at KEM hospital.

Dr Pradeep Bhosale, head of the orthopaedic department at KEM hospital, diagnosed the problem and informed Anwar that he required hip replacement surgery. Anwar was admitted to the hospital on August 4 this year, and the first surgery was performed almost two months later, on September 26. Since Anwar didn’t have sufficient funds, he had to wait for the second surgery on his right hip. He finally managed to pay up, and was given a December 19 date.

‘Burning’ issue
At the operating table, Anwar’s left thigh was placed between two cautery pads, which are used to control excess bleeding during surgeries. While operating upon him, doctors failed to notice that the pad placed below his left hip was emitting excessive heat owing to some kind of defect. This left a big burnt patch on his left thigh.

Anwar, who was administered anaesthesia below his hip for the surgery, did not realise that he had been burnt till almost two hours had passed after the operation. He said, “When gradually the effect of the anaesthesia started to wear off, I realised that I was experiencing more pain on the left side rather than on my right hip where the surgery had been performed. I immediately complained of a burning sensation and pain to my wife Parveen.”

Parveen then noticed that her husband’s left thigh had an 8-10 cm-long patch of burnt skin, right next to the stitches from the first surgery. She immediately informed one of the junior doctors outside the OT. The doctor examined the wound and claimed it was a bed sore.

When Parveen denied the possibility, arguing that there was no such wound when her husband had been wheeled in for the surgery, senior doctors came and examined the wound.

Parveen said, “Initially the junior doctors tried to underplay the issue and called it a bed sore but I went ahead and complained to the senior doctors. Dr Bhosale arrived and examined the wound and accepted that it was a burn caused during the surgery due to some cautery pad. He also reprimanded the junior doctors for their negligence and asked them to take care of the burn.”

She added, “In spite of the instructions issued by their senior, the doctors didn’t attend to the wound in the past six days. I personally applied an ointment and kept cleaning the wound, as there was continuous formation of pus. I was afraid that my husband would develop an infection, adding to our problems.”

‘No serious matter’
Last afternoon, a group of specialist doctors and some junior doctors came to check the wound. They cleaned it and put a bandage over the area. A junior doctor attending to Anwar said, on condition of anonymity, “The burn was caused due to some fault in the cautery machine. This usually does not occur during surgeries, when the cautery pad is used to control bleeding. The pad placed below Anwar’s left hip got overheated and caused a superficial burn. It is not a very serious issue and we are attending to the patient’s grievance.”

The doctors have written a letter to the dean regarding this issue and even the engineers have been told to rectify the problem with the cautery machine.

The Other Side
Dr Sandhya Kamath, dean of KEM hospital said, “I have been informed about the patient by the concerned department. It is a superficial burn that was caused by the cautery pad. The pad is not faulty. However, the burn must have been caused due to change of position during the surgery or voltage fluctuation. I am looking into the matter and it will be resolved as soon as possible.” 

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