Hysterectomy, bowel perforation, multiple complications
A Mississippi woman underwent a hysterectomy in 2011, performed by her gynecologist. Two days later, she returned to the emergency room with complaints of pain. The following day, she was seen by her gynecologist and admitted to the hospital. A general surgery consult was ordered. Exploratory laparotomy performed the next day revealed an abscess and a 1-cm bowel perforation, which was repaired. Despite the repair, the patient endured a rigorous course of recovery. She developed pneumonia, respiratory failure, underwent multiple surgeries, and had recurrent abscesses and fistulas.
The woman sued the gynecologist, alleging he was negligent in perforating her bowel and failing to timely recognize the injury. Her expert opined that such an injury can sometimes be a surgical complication, but it was not in this case as it was alleged the gynecologist was rushed in performing this procedure because he had a patient at another hospital waiting for a cesarean delivery.
The gynecologist denied all liability and argued the perforation happened days after the operation within an abscess. He claimed it would have been obvious to him if it occurred during surgery.
The verdict: The jury deliberated for two and a half hours at the conclusion of an eight day trial and returned a defense verdict.
Severe hemorrhage, life-threatening complications
In 2013, a 46-year-old North Carolina woman was suffering with a history of increasingly frequent and painful menstrual periods. Her gynecologist was unable to prescribe oral contraceptives due to the patient’s hypertension and recommended a hysteroscopy with resection of a submucosal fibroid, a dilation and curettage, and endometrial ablation. During the procedure, the gynecologist encountered the 2-cm fibroid and attempted to morcellate it from the anterior wall down to a normal-appearing uterine cavity. Although the estimated blood loss was noted to be less than 100 mL the patient began hemorrhaging immediately. The nurses informed the gynecologist multiple times over the course of seven hours that the patient was experiencing severe bleeding. When the gynecologist finally examined the patient, he found that she was in hemorrhagic shock and advised her that a hysterectomy was necessary. During that operation, the woman’s bladder was lacerated twice. After hours of attempting to repair the damage, a urologist was called in to assist. Postoperatively the patient suffered a stroke, respiratory failure, kidney failure, permanent sterility, and significant bladder complications.
The woman sued the gynecologist alleging all the complications she suffered were the result of the gynecologist’s actions.
The verdict: The case settled for a confidential amount at mediation.
Alleged catheter tip found in bladder years after hysterectomy
An Alabama woman underwent a hysterectomy in 2009. As part of the procedure, a Foley catheter was inserted in the bladder and the balloon was inflated. The catheter was removed a week later when the patient when to see the gynecologist. At that time, she complained of pain and the gynecologist was called back in to speak with her. Subsequently, she suffered persistent pain and infections related to her bladder. Three months later, the woman’s primary care physician referred her to a urologist, who ordered a computed tomography scan of the bladder. The report noted a “linear band of hyper dense material . . . which could represent some minimal areas of hemorrhage or debris” but no further investigation was done. Over two years later, the patient continued to experience bladder problems that no healthcare providers could treat definitively. In 2012, a surgeon performed bladder surgery and removed an object which he believed to be a catheter tip. The subsequent pathology report on the object identified it as a calcified catheter tip.
The patient sued her healthcare providers, including the gynecologist, urologist, primary care physician, radiologist, and hospital. She criticized the gynecologist for not having removed the catheter tip, and the others for not having discovered its continuing presence in a timelier fashion. According to the gynecologist, he tested the balloon and examined the tip of the catheter after it was removed. Both were intact. The patient later questioned whether he actually checked the integrity of the catheter. The notes in the medical records did not indicate that he had performed this check when the catheter was removed.
The defendants responded with a denial of any breach of the standard of care. The gynecologist could not remember who inserted the catheter or who took it out and further expressed uncertainty that any catheter had been removed from the patient in his office. Finally, the gynecologist and the urologist questioned whether the item removed from the patient’s bladder was a catheter tip, although the pathology report stated the contrary.
The verdict: The first trial began in July of 2017 but ended in a mistrial after the jury heard inadmissible evidence about the defendants’ liability insurance. The second trial lasted eight days and the jury found in favor of all the defendants.