Hospitals are supposed to be places of healing. But when medical complications set in, it can be discouraging for patients, family members, and healthcare workers. Fortunately, being aware of the causes and symptoms can help doctors, nurses, and patients alike take precautions against the common medical complications from hospital stays.
Bedsores, also known as pressure sores or pressure ulcers, are common in bed-bound patients. They typically occur in areas where the bone is close to the skin such as the heels, elbows, shoulder blades, ankles, the back of the head, and the tail bone area. As pressure from lying in the same position persists, painful blisters emerge in these places that can eventually break open. Unfortunately, this leaves the patient more vulnerable to infection.
The simplest way to avoid bedsores is to relieve pressure on the patient’s skin. Hospitals can accomplish this by regularly repositioning the patient or by using specialized mattress pads designed to alternate pressure under patients. Other factors that can contribute to bedsores are lack of nutrition and dry skin, so eating foods that are high in protein and keeping skin moisturized will help prevent them.
Pneumonia, an infection that causes the lungs’ air sacs to fill with fluid, is usually considered its own illness. However, pneumonia is typically a complication from fungal or viral infections like the flu, strep throat, or, notably, COVID-19. Common symptoms of pneumonia include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pains
Only about 15% to 20% of COVID-19 cases tend to contract a serious case of pneumonia. For these patients, hospital care is necessary so doctors can monitor progress and decide if a ventilator is necessary.
Intravenous (IV) nutrition is invaluable for preventing common medical complications during hospital stays, especially complications arising from dehydration. However, they can also potentially cause complications if healthcare staff does not follow IV tubing best practices. The importance of priming IV tubing, for instance, cannot be overstated. This is the process of removing air bubbles from the tubing. If this is not done, it can lead to an air embolism.
An air embolism occurs when an air bubble enters the bloodstream and blocks blood flow. Symptoms can occur within 10 to 20 minutes and include:
- Chest pain
- Trouble breathing
- Muscle pain
- Blue skin
- Weakness in the limbs
- Blood from the mouth
In serious cases, an embolism can cause a heart attack or stroke, so it’s imperative that hospitals do not ignore these symptoms.