On March 23, 2021, a Georgia medical malpractice wrongful death jury awarded $3 million for the death of a woman who died on May 7, 2016 from peritonitis resulting from a small intestine perforation caused during laparoscopic abdominal surgery. The Georgia medical malpractice wrongful death lawsuit was filed by the woman’s estate and her children for the negligently performed laparoscopic abdominal surgery.
The lawsuit alleged that the defendant surgeon perforated the woman’s bowel during the surgery and was unaware of the injury that he had caused. As a result, the hole that he created was not repaired at that time. Shortly after the surgery, the woman complained of the worse pain she had ever experienced in her life. At the time she was readmitted to the hospital, a CT scan showed signs of sepsis but she was nonetheless discharged with a temperature of 99 degrees.
The plaintiffs’ expert testified during trial that the CT scan results were consistent with a bowel perforation that the medical staff should have realized and treated, but they failed to do so.
Bowel Injury During Laparoscopic Surgery
Bowel injuries occur in around 0.13% of laparoscopic procedures, which is probably an underestimate due to the retrospective nature of most studies. Such injuries may vary from serosal to full thickness injuries. Full thickness injuries may lead to bowel perforation or transection. The estimated mortality rate for all laparoscopic bowel procedures is 3.6%.
The risk factors for bowel injuries include surgeon-related factors such as inexperience and early learning curve, previous abdominal surgery, adhesions, and obesity. The injury could be a result of direct injury during laparoscopic port insertion (access injury) or during handling the bowel with instruments. Thermal injuries to the bowel may occur because of equipment faults (e.g., damage to the insulation on a laparoscopic instrument) or improper use of an energy device (e.g., using an ultrasonic forceps as a grasper).
If a bowel injury is recognized at the time of surgery, it can always be repaired, usually laparoscopically with minimum consequences. Experienced laparoscopic surgeons should perform the repair because the repair involves laparoscopic suturing and knot tying, which is a complex technical task. A surgeon encountering bowel injury who lacks experience in laparoscopic suturing should convert to an open laparotomy to repair the injury. In most circumstances, an open laparotomy would be safer than a poorly performed laparoscopic repair.
One advantage of laparoscopic surgery is that repeat laparoscopy can be performed without much trauma to patients. The policy of performing re-laparoscopy in patients who are not improving as they should is believed to be one reason for recent advances in early detection and management of anastomotic leaks in patients undergoing gastrointestinal surgery.
If you or a loved one suffered a bowel perforation during laparoscopic surgery in Georgia or in another U.S. state, you should promptly find a Georgia medical malpractice lawyer, or a medical malpractice lawyer in your state, who may investigate your bowel perforation medical malpractice claim for you and represent you or your loved one in a laparoscopic surgery medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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