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Common Problems Patients Face in the Hospital

Understand your hospital risks and ask these vital questions -- to keep those risks in check.

Hospital Risk No. 3: Pneumonia

Although some might think of pneumonia as a minor complication, it can be quite serious. After urinary tract infections and wound infections, it's the most common hospital acquired infection. According to the CDC, estimates of hospital pneumonia's mortality rate are as high as 33%. It's most common in people who are in the intensive care unit or on ventilators.

Pneumonia is a common hospital risk after surgery for several reasons. During recovery, you might naturally take shallow breaths, since you're on your back and breathing deeply may be painful. After surgery, many people also have a partial collapse of the lung tissue -- called alectasis -- which further weakens lung function. All of this can make it easier for bugs that cause pneumonia to gain a foothold.

So what are some ways to avoid this hospital risk? Deep breathing is one. "I recommend that people try to take 10 to 15 really big breaths every hour," says Angood. If you smoke, you should quit or at least stop for a week or two before surgery, says Clancy. Just a short break can make a big difference in the health of your lungs.

Aspiration pneumonia has a more specific cause. It develops when you breathe in fluids, like vomit. This can happen after anesthesia because your normal coughing reflexes may be suppressed. The best way to avoid this type of pneumonia is to follow your doctor's advice about not eating or drinking after midnight the day before your surgery. If you don't have anything in your stomach to vomit up, the danger of aspiration pneumonia is quite low.

Hospital Risk No. 4: Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)

"DVT, it clearly ranks as one of the more significant risks after surgery," Clancy tells WebMD.

DVT -- or deep vein thrombosis -- is the development of a blood clot, typically deep in the veins of the leg. If the clot breaks free and travels through the bloodstream, it can get lodged in the arteries of the lungs, cutting off the blood's supply of oxygen. This complication, called a pulmonary embolism, can be fatal.

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