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Medical Malpractice

Bowel Perforation and Medical Malpractice

There’s really no such thing as a routine surgical procedure. Risk is always involved. However, certain low-risk procedures are recommended as a preventative measure against serious illnesses. Colonoscopies are one such procedure. Adults aged 50 and over should have a colonoscopy to detect colorectal cancer every ten years, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Since colorectal cancer is a leading killer in the United States, such testing saves lives. However, in a small percentage of patients undergoing colonoscopy for cancer testing or minor surgery, the bowel is perforated by the physician during the examination or operation, resulting in potentially life-threatening consequences.

Colonoscopies and Bowel Perforation

According to a 2010 article published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology, colonoscopic perforation is rare, but the mortality rate in affected patients is high. In therapeutic colonoscopies – minimally invasive procedures performed on the lower gastrointestinal tract – the rate of bowel perforations may reach 5 percent. Patients treated for removal of polyps, especially if the growths are larger than 20 mm, are at increased risk for bowel perforation, as are those being treated for colorectal cancer or Crohn’s disease stricture through pneumatic dilatation. Older patients experience a higher risk of bowel perforation and complications than younger patients.

Perforated Bowel Complications

When bowel perforation occurs, fecal material spills into the abdomen. When recognized quickly, the surgeon may make a repair without resorting to a colostomy, or rerouting the colon above the torn area so that fecal material empties into a bag. If a colostomy is necessary, surgery to reverse it and permit normal bowel movement may take place several months later, or the condition may be permanent. A long hospital stay is likely. Without prompt treatment, patients often develop septicemia, a potentially deadly blood infection.

Medical Malpractice

Bowel perforation does not automatically mean that medical malpractice occurred. That requires proof of actual negligence on the part of the surgeon. Such proof might include use of outdated techniques or instruments, or perforation in an area that was not part of the examination or surgical procedure. Every surgeon knows that bowel perforation is a risk factor, even in “routine” surgeries. The surgeon should carefully inspect all parts of the body involved in the procedure and ensure that no damage was inadvertently done. Signs and symptoms of bowel perforation generally appear soon after the surgery. These include:

  • Fever
  • Pain
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Extreme nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Rigid abdomen

A perforated bowel requires immediate attention, usually including surgical repair. If a doctor fails to recognize the signs and symptoms, and/or fails to order prompt diagnostic testing and treatment, the issue may become one of medical malpractice. Not all cases of perforated bowel present symptoms early on, but depending on the situation, the surgeon or facility may have violated the standard of care.

The Hope Law Firm – Personal Injury Attorneys Serving Des Moines and the Surrounding Area

If you or someone you know has suffered a bowel perforation because of a colonoscopy or other procedure, call the Hope Law Firm immediately. You may be entitled to compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost wages. Our attorneys will evaluate the case details and make sure you understand your rights and options before moving forward. Contact the Hope Law Firm for a free consultation today.