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Legal: Rectal laceration during laparoscopy

A woman underwent laparoscopic removal of a retained fibroid following a prior hysterctomy and removal of multiple fibroids.

A North Carolina woman underwent laparoscopic removal of a retained fibroid following a prior hysterectomy and removal of multiple fibroids. The operative report noted some "oozing" around the peri-rectal tissues and the patient was discharged from the outpatient surgical center several hours later, despite complaints of severe pain. Later that day, the patient's husband made several calls to the surgeon's medical group reporting that her pain was severe and not controlled by pain medication. Two days after surgery she went to her family physician with complaints of severe pain and was sent immediately to an emergency room. The woman was then transferred to the hospital where her gynecologist had privileges, complaining of abdominal distention and severe pain. The next day, an x-ray showed free air in the abdominal cavity and her WBC was critically low. About 14 hours after admission, she went into septic shock and was taken to the OR, where a rectal laceration was found and repaired and the abdomen was debrided. She underwent several operations and prolonged hospitalization. During a hypotensive episode, she lost sight in one eye and had some vision loss in the other eye. The patient sued the gynecologist who performed the laparoscopy and a $2.5 million settlement was reached.

Department editor DAWN COLLINS, JD, is an attorney specializing in medical malpractice in Long Beach, CA. She welcomes feedback on this column via e-mail to dawncfree@gmail.com