The term “aspiration” refers to the act of a person accidentally swallowing reflux, saliva or the like. Normally, this is not a major ordeal and is rather common. Take, for example, a person who simply takes a swallow of water and it goes down “the wrong pipe.” However, when a person is sick, elderly or in bad health, aspiration can have deadly results. For example, a person receiving food through a tube may be at risk for aspirating, as can anyone who is lying in bed for a prolonged period of time.
Usually, patients who are aspirating will slowly accumulate fluid in their lungs as small amounts from time to time head down the windpipe. Eventually, this will lead to pneumonia, which is a potentially life-threatening condition since the lungs can no longer process oxygen properly.
While some cases of aspiration and pneumonia are hard to avoid even with top-notch medical care, in many other cases a family may discover that a hospital or an individual medical professional shares some responsibility for their loved one’s condition. For instance, doctors, nurses and other workers are trained to properly position patients in bed. Ideally, patients will be able to rest consistently at the proper angle so that they are less likely to aspirate.
Likewise, medical professionals must monitor feeding tubes regularly and verify that a patient is indeed ready to swallow once the tube gets removed. Finally, and in addition to other steps, the hospital should be judicious when using sedatives.
When a hospital in the Kansas City area fails to take steps to prevent aspiration and a patient suffers a further injury or dies of pneumonia as a result the patient and his family may be able to obtain compensation for their losses by filing a medical malpractice case in the appropriate court in Missouri.