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: Cleveland Personal Injury Lawyer

Perforated Bowel: Do I Have a Case?

By William Eadie

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Colonoscopies, hysterectomies, gall-bladder removal, upper endoscopy. Whenever doctors are operating in or near the digestive tract, there is a risk of perforated bowel or a nicked intestine. This is a true medical emergency—one that often goes unnoticed during the critical period between the injury and the diagnosis, and can quickly lead to massive infections, peritonitis, sepsis, a colostomy, and if unsuccessfully treated, death. Symptoms include severe abdominal pain, fever, nausea, vomiting, blood in your stool, or changes in bowel habits.

Former Representative Jack Murtha died after 'routine' gall bladder surgery during which the surgeon may have nicked his intestines, leading to massive infection and his death just days later. Kristen Freeman suffered severe brain damage following a botched endoscopy that nicked her intestinal wall, eventually resulting in a $12 million verdict against the doctor. Edith Isabel Rodriguez died from a perforated bowel while begging for treatment in a hospital.

If you or a loved one had a procedure that led to sepsis, perforated bowel, or peritonitis, you need to ask some tough questions of your health care providers to decide if you have a legal case. There is no excuse for failing to recognize and diagnose perforated bowel, when it is so easy to do:

X-rays of the abdomen may show air in the abdominal cavity (not in the stomach or intestines), suggesting a perforation. CT scan of the abdomen often shows the location of the perforation. The person's white blood cell (WBC) count is often higher than normal.

I'd add that many sites suggest a simple abdominal exam, which can reveal a potential perforation.

There are some tough questions to ask any time someone suffers a perforated bowel from a medical procedure. Was it recognized during the procedure and quickly fixed? If it wasn't recognized, how soon was the problem diagnosed and corrected? Was the victim reporting symptoms to the doctor or hospital that were ignored? Was there a delay?

As with any legal question, the specific facts of a situation are what determine whether you have a viable legal claim for the suffering you or your loved one endured. But when a medical procedure results in perforated bowel, you likely want to call an experienced trial lawyer firm that is willing to consult with you for free, because no procedure should result in a tear or cut to the bowels—and if it does, it should be recognized and fixed, not left to cause more harm. The lawyer can help you evaluate whether the doctor violated the standard of care, and whether the damages involved warrant legal action.

Originally posted at InjuryBoard by William Eadie

Full post as published by Cleveland Personal Injury Lawyer on July 23, 2010 (boomark / email).

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