Bowel perforations after laparoscopy
In 2013, a 73-year-old woman underwent laparoscopic surgery to address pelvic pain. The procedure involved lysis of adhesions of soft tissue and removal of a fibroid mass and was performed by her gynecologist. The day following surgery the patient developed septic shock and it was determined this was a result of 2 perforations of the small intestine. She underwent 9 operations that involved removal of fluid that accumulated in her abdomen and applications of 2 skin grafts that covered her abdominal surgical wounds. She was hospitalized for 84 days and underwent 47 nonsurgical procedures during her convalescence. Two years later she underwent surgical repair of a large ventral hernia which she claimed was a result of the original perforations. She claimed she suffered from residual disfigurement of her abdomen, that she had diminished ambulatory ability, and her limitations had necessitated hiring workers to maintain the properties she owned as a landlord.
The patient sued all those involved with the original operation and her postsurgical care. She claimed the perforations occurred during the laparoscopy, they were not recognized in a timely manner, and that the delay led to all the complications and further surgeries. The plaintiff’s counsel discontinued the claims against the 3 postsurgical gynecologists and the doctors’ employer. The trial proceeded against the remaining defendants, arguing that timely intervention would have prevented the patient’s sepsis and its residual effects. They also contended that laparoscopic surgery was unnecessary, claiming the patient’s age and comorbidities contraindicated performance of the surgery, and that the procedure was not a reliable means of addressing the pain that she was experiencing.
Defense counsel contended that the surgery was an appropriate means of addressing the patient’s underlying condition. They also claimed that her perforations developed after the surgery had been completed, and they contended that the perforations were timely detected. After deliberating for 2 hours at the conclusion of an 8-day trial, the jury rendered a mixed verdict: it determined that the resident did not fail to timely diagnose the complications of the laparoscopic surgery, that the surgery was an appropriate means of addressing her underlying condition, and that the 2 treating gynecologists did fail to timely diagnose the operative complications.
THE VERDICT: The jury found that the patient’s damages totaled $1,234,298.28.