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Why are sales representatives sometimes present during surgery?

You probably don't expect sales representatives to be in the operating room while you're undergoing surgery. However, if you're having a medical device inserted or replaced, there may be a rep there.

Reps from medical device companies that make artificial joints and devices used in cardiac surgery (like pacemakers and stents) can be a big help to surgical teams. They're experts on the devices they sell, and they know all the hardware used to insert them. These reps undergo training using cadavers, so they aren't squeamish when observing real surgeries. Often, they have more experience with these devices -- particularly newer models -- than the surgeons they're assisting.

The practice of having medical device sales reps in surgery isn't new. However, it has come under increased scrutiny now that more baby boomers who have worn out their hips and knees are getting new ones and heart damage can be fixed with new technology.

There are rules for sales reps in operating rooms -- set by their employers and medical facilities. They can't touch anything that's sterile, and they aren't allowed to touch patients.

Those who are critical of the practice say that reps are present in surgery to improve their relationships with doctors and increase their sales. However, hospitals that cut back on the practice have found that they have to bring in their own medical personnel to replace them -- at added cost. Further, surgeons often prefer having a rep by their side who knows the device better than any hospital personnel.

While the presence of these medical device sales reps seems to be an advantage to patients undergoing surgery involving a device, that doesn't mean that a rep can't overstep their bounds or make an error that could result in harm. If you or a loved one has suffered harm during any surgical procedure, it's important to find out precisely what the circumstances were. That includes knowing who was in the operating room and what role they played in the surgery. An experienced Mississippi medical malpractice attorney can help get answers and determine who can and should be held responsible.

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