Patients who experience a bowel perforation during a surgical procedure will likely require a repair during the procedure or a second surgery to repair this complication. In many cases, patients with bowel perforation may also be able to recover compensation after filing a malpractice claim.
What Is a Bowel Perforation?
The term bowel perforation refers to any nick, tear, or cut in one of the body's gastrointestinal organs that is large enough to cause the contents to leak into the abdomen.
The early symptoms of a bowel perforation include vomiting, fever, chills, and stomach pain. It's common for patients to experience less pain when lying still and more pain when they are moving or if someone touches the area.
A bowel perforation is a serious medical emergency that can lead to life-threatening complications if not treated promptly. When stomach acid and waste seep into the abdomen, a patient is at risk of infection, sepsis, peritonitis, organ failure, or even death.
What Causes a Bowel Perforation?
Some undiagnosed medical conditions can lead to a bowel perforation. For example, appendicitis, diverticulitis, gallstones, and gallbladder infections can sometimes create a bowel perforation. Knife wounds, gunshot wounds, and other forms of bodily trauma may cause a bowel perforation as well. However, surgical errors is the leading cause of all bowel perforations.
Bowel perforation can occur during a number of conventional and laparoscopic surgical procedures. The following are a few examples of a few of the different types of surgical procedures during which bowel perforations can occur:
Adhesiolysis – Surgery to remove or divide pelvic adhesions.
Colonoscopy – A diagnostic test used to find ulcers, tumors, colon polyps, and signs of inflammation or bleeding.
Cholecystectomy – Surgical removal of the gallbladder.
Electrocautery – A procedure that uses electricity to heat tissue to prevent or stop bleeding or to remove abnormal tissue growth.
Hysterectomy – Surgical removal of all or part of a woman’s uterus.
Pelvic lymphadenectomy – Lymph node surgery used in the treatment of bladder cancer, prostate cancer, ureteral cancer, and penile cancer.
Oophorectomy – Surgical removal of one or both of a woman’s ovaries.
How Is a Bowel Perforation Diagnosed?
If your doctor suspects a bowel perforation, he or she will order:
X-rays to check for air or fluid in your abdominal cavity.
A CT scan to learn the precise location of the perforation.
Lab work to check for signs of infection, evaluate your hemoglobin level to see if you've lost a significant amount of blood, check electrolytes, and assess the function of the kidneys and liver.
How Is a Bowel Perforation Treated?
Treatments such as intravenous fluids, antibiotics, and nasogastric aspiration can be used if the patient is in stable condition. However, once a patient is exhibiting stomach pain and other signs of infection, more aggressive treatment will be necessary.
A bowel perforation will typically require immediate surgery to close the hole and remove any foreign material that has seeped into the abdominal cavity. In serious cases, the surgeon will need to remove a small piece of the intestine. This may result in a colostomy or ileostomy. These procedures are performed to allow intestinal contents to drain or empty into a plastic bag that is permanently attached to your abdominal wall.
If I've Experienced a Bowel Perforation, How Can I Protect My Legal Rights?
A bowel perforation during a surgical procedure isn't always considered medical malpractice—surgeons can injure a patient's bowel using appropriate medical techniques if the patient inflamed or diseased tissue surrounding the area.
However, a surgeon can be found negligent if they use improper surgical techniques or delay diagnosing the complication. If the bowel perforation or the response to the perforation is negligent, you can file a medical malpractice claim. In that claim you can request compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, loss of future earning potential, and pain and suffering.
If you believe you have the basis for a malpractice claim, skilled legal representation is a must. Inland Empire Law Group is staffed with experienced personal injury attorneys who are committed to assisting patients with bowel perforations occurring at Inland Empire hospitals in Ontario, Montclair, Corona, Fontana, Chino, Apple Valley and other local hospitals. To schedule a consultation regarding your malpractice claim, please call (888) MY IE LAW or complete our online contact form.