What is aspiration?

Many Georgia residents being treated in hospitals, particularly in intensive care, are at risk for a medical condition called aspiration. Aspiration can affect any seriously ill patient, but those who are being fed through a tube are particularly prone to it.

In reality, many residents of Rome have probably experienced a mild form of aspiration when they swallow water too quickly and it goes down the wrong pipe. In other words, aspiration involves the accidental inhalation of saliva or other fluids into the lungs.

Should this happen frequently, over time the lungs will fill up with an unhealthy amount of fluid, causing pneumonia. Pneumonia is a potentially fatal condition, especially when it develops in a person who is already elderly or in poor health.

When a patient experiences complications from aspiration, it is not an overreaction to suspect that medical malpractice is the cause. While aspiration is often difficult to detect, doctors, nurses and other hospital workers are trained to take steps to prevent aspiration.

For instance, the proper positioning of a patient in his or her bed is an important step. Generally speaking, patients need to lie at an angle between 30 and 45 degrees in order to prevent aspiration, although other medical needs may indicate some other positioning.

Likewise, medical professionals who are feeding a patient through a feeding tube need to be sure to verify that the tube is correctly positioning regularly, typically every 4 hours.

Doctors and nurses who are careless or slipshod about following these safety protocols are literally putting their patients’ lives at risk. Should it turn out that a patient does suffer a setback to aspiration, the patient and his or her family should consider their legal options.