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A recently filed medical malpractice lawsuit alleges that a surgeon who was performing an exploratory laparotomy left a hole in his patient’s bowel. The suit claims that the patient died as a result of the doctor’s negligence.
A woman underwent surgery in March of 2009 in order to treat a small bowel obstruction. Five days after the surgery, she was discharged from the hospital. The medical malpractice filing says that by April 1st, she had returned to the surgeon because of skin problems.
The surgeon noticed that the woman felt feverish when he shook her hand. He tried to treat her medical problems by draining her abscess and giving her an I.V. that would supplement her nutritional needs.
However, the woman’s husband and children claim she had symptoms that indicated a contained perforation inside her body, and this should have been caught by the physician. Experts for the plaintiffs say the woman’s white blood count was high, and that this was indicative of an infection. A CAT scan showed multiple abscesses and a possible contrast in the abscess of the pelvis which indicated a contained perforation.
Instead of correcting the perforation, the surgeon discharged the patient to a long-term care facility. By April 15th, her symptoms worsened. Her blood pressure dropped and her heartbeat rose. The color of her drainage changed.
Upon return to the hospital, the open wound was finally diagnosed, but considerable damage had already been done. The woman had to be put on a ventilator to allow her to continue breathing.
By April 28th, she was transferred to another hospital and diagnosed with multiple organ failure and septic shock, due to, as the court filings say, “an inter-abdominal catastrophe.”
The woman died on May 5th.
This story, like many others, appears to be one of poor communication by medical personnel. So poor that it amounted to negligence. Pennsylvania medical malpractice attorneys note that the initial error of leaving a hole in the patient’s bowel was made worse by (as claimed in the suit) the hospital’s failure to note the patient’s deteriorating condition, the hospital’s failure to notify the surgeon of the patient’s condition, and the failure by both the surgeon and the hospital in delaying the transfer to another hospital.
The perforation of the bowel took place in early March, but it was not until mid-April, after many examinations of the patient, that the injury was diagnosed. It appears as though the initial mistake, though serious, is not the crux of this case. The filing indicates it was the delay in diagnosis that ultimately led to the patient’s death.
Source: SE TX Record “Malpractice suit alleges surgeon left open hole in woman’s bowel” 6/3/2011
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