(WXYZ) – Former Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne is in grave condition at a hospital in Switzerland. He recently resigned from his position due to complications from shoulder surgery.
Question: While we don’t know what happened with Sergio Marchionne, what kind of complications can happen following surgery?
This is very tragic and I feel for the family of Sergio Marchionne. As a practicing physician, I do my best to prepare patients in regards to what they can expect following surgery, and that includes potential complications.
Complications are events that may happen that aren’t part of the typical healing process. For instance, some people can experience shock. This can be caused by blood loss, a brain injury, metabolic issues or infection. Now, wound infections are typically minor but some can become severe and life-threatening. They happen when bacteria enters the surgical area and infections can spread to organs and other tissue. Some people can have reactions to anesthesia, which can affect your breathing, suppress your urge to cough and allow mucus to build in the lungs. A real concern can be blood clots that form in a limb or part of the body. This can be very dangerous if the clot breaks free and lands in your lungs, which can cut off blood flow causing a potentially life-threatening Pulmonary Embolism.
Question: If someone thinks they’re having complications, what should they do?
If something doesn’t feel right, call your doctor. But if you experience shortness of breath, rapid breathing, fast heartbeat, fever, or chest pain – these are signs that it’s a medical emergency and you need care immediately. I would also stress the importance of discussing your health history in detail prior to any surgeries, and to eat nutritiously and get moving following your surgery as soon as it’s safe to do so. These will all help tremendously when it comes to your recovery.
More Information Regarding Surgical Complications
Surgeries can save lives and improve all kinds of health conditions. They are phenomenal.
Still, cutting into your body and tinkering with your organs, bones and other parts inside is not something to take lightly. Healing from surgery can be painful and can take a while. Sometimes there are complications after surgery. Complications are anything that is not part of the normal post-surgery recovery process. Some may be minor, others may be serious and even dangerous.
Your doctor will do her or his best to prepare you for surgery by explaining what to expect after surgery, including complications that may happen. It is important to understand what to expect and to pay attention to your body’s signals in case complications arise. If something is ever ‘off’ call your doctor and go to the ER immediately.
Pain After Surgery
Pain after surgery is normal. Pain levels and recovery time greatly depend on the type of procedure you’ve had as well as your overall health. There are many options to manage your pain and your doctor and nurses will help you with the best pain relief possible. Controlling pain will help you move again to avoid blood clots or pneumonia that are potential complications after surgery.
Reaction To Anesthesia
You won’t feel anything when you are being ‘put under,’ however, you may experience some discomfort once you wake up, including:
- Sore throat
- Feeling queasy
Severe reactions are rare. People with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, heart disease, lung disease, and history of stroke may experience more severe reactions, for example, confusion or memory loss, lasting for a week.
Temporary problems with breathing, coughing, and mucus are normal. However, lungs collapsing or stopping inflating is a potential complication. It can lead to:
- Shortness of breath
- Blue lips or skin
- Rapid breathing and heart rate
Your doctor may use an incentive spirometer that measures your breathing to prevent a collapsed lung.
Infections can happen around any surgical cut. Usually, they are minor and simply slow the healing process. However, in some cases, they can be severe and even life-threatening. Pay attention to your symptoms and let your doctor know if you notice:
- Redness and swelling
- Fluid and pus draining
Treatment of infections may include antibiotics and in some cases, another surgery.
To avoid infections, make sure to follow your doctor’s instructions and wash your hands regularly. Being overweight, older, smoking, having diabetes and some other medical conditions may increase your risk of infection post-surgery.
Blood loss, brain injury, infections, or metabolic problems may lead to shock, a severe drop in blood pressure, leading to a dangerous reduction of blood flow. Treatment may include stopping any blood loss, giving fluid or blood via IV, providing oxygen, helping to breathe through a ventilator, reducing heat loss and medication.
Hemorrhage is bleeding leading to rapid blood loss and possibly shock. Treatment may include IV fluids, blood plasma, blood transfusion, or further surgery.
Trouble Using The Bathroom
Anesthesia can make it difficult to pass urine. If you can’t, your doctor may insert a catheter temporarily to help with relief. This is only a short-term problem, however, when not treated, bladder damage or infection may occur.
Constipation is also common after surgery. Dietary changes, pain medication, and inactivity during recovery may also lead to constipation. Again, it is a temporary problem. Your doctor may prescribe laxatives or stool softeners and recommend good hydration.
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot in a vein deep inside your belly or thigh. It can develop after surgery, especially after hip or leg surgery. You may not experience any symptoms or may experience painful, red and swollen legs.
DVT can be dangerous if it leads to a pulmonary embolism if the clot breaks and travels to your lungs. The symptoms of pulmonary embolism include:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
Treatment may include blood thinners, thrombolytic medication to dissolve clots, surgery, or other procedures.
To avoid blood clots, it is important to get moving as soon as possible, to move your legs, and follow your doctor’s instructions.
Spine surgery carries the risk of nerve injury and spinal cord injury that can lead to nerve damage. This can happen from post-op swelling, scarring, or instruments used during surgery. Signs of nerve or spinal cord damage may include:
- Changes in sensations
- Changes in strength
Implant And Fusion Complications
Spinal and orthopedic surgery can lead to implant and fusion problems.
Nonunion can occur when the fusion doesn’t heal as planned. This may require a second surgery. Risks are higher for nonunion among smokers, patients who are diabetic, overweight, have a history of radiation, or need a multiple level fusion.
Instrumental problems can happen when metal screws, plates, and rods are being used to stabilize a bone or bones to heal. Sometimes these instruments can move or break, requiring a second operation. These instruments can also cause pain and discomfort.
Though implants are designed to stay in place, sometimes they can move and migrate too far. In this case, a second surgery may be required.
X-rays during your follow-up visits can ensure than implants and instruments are in place and your orthopedic surgery is healing properly.
Muscle loss is not a complication, however, resting in bed leads to muscle loss even in young and healthy people, and especially in older adults. The longer your recovery, the more muscle you lose. It is important to eat nutritious food and get moving as soon as you are allowed and can. After long rest, don’t push yourself and focus on re-building muscle slowly once you’re healed from surgery.
What To Expect And Post-Op Instructions
Complications after surgery depend on many factors, including the type of procedure you are having. Before your surgery, your doctor will inform you about all the necessary details regarding your surgery, including recovery, after-care, risks, and complications. After surgery, your doctor will inform you about the success of the procedure, what you can expect, and recovery and after-care instructions. You will likely receive written instruction.
Don’t be shy, ask as many questions you have before and after your surgery. It is helpful to have a family member or friend along to note all information and instructions and ask possible questions. Make sure to follow all post-operative instructions carefully.
If you feel that anything is wrong, please call your doctor. If you are experiencing serious symptoms or feel uncertain, go to the emergency room or call 911.
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Data pulled from WXYZ.