Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Having surgery to remove hardware? Your body, Your car -- Get the parts
Are you preparing to have surgery for removal of a stent or screws, nails, external fixator? Think of yourself as a car. Remember what your dad told you --- ask the mechanic to give you back the parts.
This is especially true in the era of Duke University and the hydraulic oil issue (Duke Medical reusing some surgical equipment such as clamps and scalpel from the initial 12/2004 mis-cleaning fiasco) and hospital born infections, you as the patient would be wise to keep the screws, nails, stents that are removed from your body.
This is a discussion you have with the surgeon who is removing metal from your body before the surgery. I recommend that the agreement that screws be saved for you be written on the Authorization for Surgery. That document will have both your signature and the surgeon's signature.
Am I suggesting that you request the hardware in anticipation of a medical malpractice lawsuit? Absolutely not.
Infections are serious. I have osteomyelitis (a bone infection) that often occurs when foreign objects are placed into body/bone to fixate a bone.
In order to get well and healthy, the hardware helps infectious disease clinicians analyze the screws or other metal that were in the human body. Anything that can help diagnose the infection and make the patient better is a tremendous resource for treating physicians.
After the surgery to remove hardware, you may not have an infection. Terrific. The screws are nice and could either:
(1) hold up a heavy bookcase or
(2) serve as a lovely souvenir
What would I do if the surgeon refused to save the hardware for me?
(1) Politely ask for an explanation.
(2) If the surgeon maintained his refusal, I would get another surgeon. The screws belong to you. They are in your body. You paid for the hardware. Why shouldn't you have the hardware.
I want to pre-empt any possible extension of my argument. I would never ask any surgeon to save diseased tissue or even a gall stone for me. I stop at taking home inanimate objects that were placed in me by a human being.