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If a Doctor Punctured an Organ During Surgery, Can I Sue?

Our Philadelphia medical malpractice attorneys discuss organ perforation medical malpractice cases.

There are a number of common procedures used to diagnose and treat patients suffering from various conditions. Whether conducted in hospitals or at outpatient clinics, we expect the doctors performing these procedures to be well-trained, skilled and careful.  Unfortunately, even the most skilled doctors are capable of making negligent medical mistakes.

When a doctor makes an error during an surgery or diagnostic procedure, particularly if that error involves punctures and organ perforations, the effect on the patient can be serious and, in some cases, life threatening. Unfortunately, surgical errors are among the most common medical mistakes. A perforation may lead to internal bleeding, a serious infection or even organ failure. Whether the error represents medical malpractice depends on the specific facts of the injury. Neither the doctor nor hospital is likely to admit to making an error. The question is whether the doctor failed to follow the recognized standard of care when performing the surgery or procedure and that resulted in harm to the patient.

Procedures Where Organ Perforation or Puncture Can Occur

Your doctor may perform a surgical procedure to help diagnose a condition or improve your quality of life, to manage a disease and maintain your overall health, or on an emergency basis to repair damage from a traumatic injury. According to health statistics from Stanford University, there are as many as 48 million procedures performed each year in the U.S., and among the most common are the following:

  • Appendectomy;
  • Cholecystectomy, or gallbladder removal;
  • Hysterectomy, and other cervical or uterine procedures;
  • Hernia repairs, which impacts the intestines and muscles of the groin;
  • Colorectal surgery, as well as surgeries to correct problems in the bladder; and
  • Diagnostic procedures, such as colonoscopy and endoscopy, done for diagnostic purposes and performed on an outpatient basis.

While doctors perform all of these procedures routinely, all invasive medical procedures carry some risks. Mishaps can happen in which organ perforation or puncture occurs. Some surgical procedures are performed with doctors looking at the area of surgery on a video screen, which can create distortions in the depth of field leading to perforations or cuts to nearby tissue. Statistics on accidental punctures and cuts during surgery from Northwestern University indicate that while these accidents are reported in less than one percent of surgeries, they still affect 200,000 or more patients each year.

Organ Perforation Symptoms

When a nicked organ during surgery occurs, the impact to the patient can be severe. According to the Mayo Clinic, organ perforation to any part of the gastrointestinal tract, including the intestines, bowels, stomach, bladder, and abdomen, may cause peritonitis, an inflammation of the membrane covering the abdominal wall and the organs in the abdomen. Peritonitis is a potentially life threatening condition. Prompt medical attention is required to prevent further damage.

Symptoms of peritonitis include the following:

  • Severe abdominal pain and bloating;
  • Nausea and vomiting;
  • Fever and excessive thirst;
  • Loss of appetite; and
  • Low urine output and inability to pass stools.

Treatment for peritonitis often involves the use of antibiotics, blood transfusions, insertion of extraction tubes to remove accumulated blood and bodily fluids, and surgery to repair the underlying perforation or puncture. The patient may require catheterization, and may need to be on kidney dialysis to remove toxins from the body. If left untreated, peritonitis can result in bloodstream infections, a serious and life threatening condition that can lead to shock and organ failure.

In addition to gastrointestinal procedures, Medline Plus advises that peritonitis can occur as a result of organ perforation during a hernia operation, hysterectomy, colonoscopy or any surgical procedure involving the pelvis or groin region. Depending on the area affected and the degree of damage done, the symptoms may include internal bleeding, infection, increased heart rate, and the risk of coma.

How to Tell If Your Injury Was the Result of Negligence

As outlined by the National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL), doctors and surgeons can be held liable through a medical malpractice lawsuit by patients for injuries they suffer, provided the patient can prove the following:

  • The doctor or surgeon owed the patient a duty of care. While a doctor cannot be held liable for failing to cure a specific illness or injury, they are liable for mistakes and errors that make that condition worse in some instances.
  • The doctor deviated from the recognized standard of care. The doctor failed to do what a reasonably prudent doctor would do under similar circumstances, and the doctor’s substandard care led an organ perforation or puncture.
  • The injury itself is compensable. This means that you have suffered some type of injury, such as the loss of health or mobility, or financial losses due to medical costs to correct the error.
  • The doctor or surgeon’s violation of the standard of care caused the losses. In a punctured organ lawsuit, this means that the surgeon’s negligent or wrongful actions are directly responsible for the health costs and financial losses you suffered.

If you or a loved one has suffered adverse results after a surgical procedure, such as peritonitis or internal bleeding, you may be asking yourself whether a preventable medical error occurred. You are unlikely to find out the truth on your own. Unfortunately, the health care provider is unlikely to admit an error. You will need help. A knowledgeable medical malpractice attorney can obtain and review your medical records and determine whether the results were simply normal complications or were caused by a preventable mistake on the part of your doctor.

Let Us Assist You with Your Case

If you have been the victim of a medical or surgical error, such as an organ perforation or puncture, contact the Colleran Firm today. We offer a free consultation to discuss the facts of your case and explain your legal options. Our experienced medical malpractice lawyer provides the trusted, professional legal representation you need to uncover the truth about what went wrong in your procedure, so that you can get the compensation for the injuries and damages you have suffered.

The attorneys at The Colleran Firm handle serious injury cases caused by health care provider negligence and medical malpractice in Pennsylvania & New Jersey.

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The Colleran Firm

2005 Market Street | Suite 1940
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Phone: 215-972-8000