REPRESENTING VICTIMS OF GALLBLADDER SURGERY MALPRACTICE IN OHIO
Gallbladder removal surgery is usually a routine operation. With more than 20 million people in the US reporting gallstones, a large percentage of the population receives an operation to alleviate pain or pressure in their stomach every year. Although the surgery is a standard procedure in the US, many people experience complications after surgery as a result of the negligence of nurses or doctors in the operating room.
If you think you’re a victim of medical malpractice in Ohio, you can download a free copy of our Ohio Medical Malpractice Guide or contact our office for help.
What is a Cholecystectomy?
A cholecystectomy is the medical term for a gallbladder removal surgery. When the gallbladder fails to do its job of digesting food or if bile in the gallbladder gets out of balance, gallstones begin to form. These gallstones can range anywhere from the size of a grain of rice to the size of a full golf ball! According to CNN, around 70% of people that experience symptoms such as pain or pressure due to gallstones receive surgery within two years. With more than 600,000 cholecystectomies performed each year, it’s one of the most popular and most frequently performed procedures in the US. Although usually classified as a low-risk surgery, there can be serious complications that can result in further injury or even death.
Gallbladder Removal Surgery Types
There are multiple different options to choose from when planning a gallbladder surgery. The two types include:
- Open/Traditional Method – 1 incision, 4-6 inches long, gallbladder removed through large incision
- Laparoscopic Method – 3 to 4 very small incisions, uses camera and surgical tools to operate and gallbladder removed through one of the small incisions
The most common form of gallbladder removal surgery is the Laparoscopic Method. According to John Hopkins Medicine, this method is less invasive and only requires small incisions, resulting in far less recovery time than the open method. A study performed by Medscape found that the number of laparoscopic procedures increased from just 10 percent in 1990 to over 80 percent in 1995, only five short years. Over time, doctors have found that it decreases pain after surgery due to the small incisions, it reduces the amount of medication prescribed to patients after the procedure, and it allows the patient to return to work, school, or any activity usually within one week. The open, or traditional, method is used in more serious cases where the gallbladder is extremely damaged or there may be other problems in the area. This method has a far greater recovery time, usually taking anywhere from 4-6 weeks to fully recover and be able to resume all activities.
Signs of Complications after Gallbladder Surgery
According to the American College of Surgeons, one out of every 1,000 patients dies during gallbladder removal. If the surgery was performed using the laparoscopic method, recovery time should only be around 2-3 days. If the open/traditional method was used, it could take up to 4-6 weeks to fully recover. During the immediate days post-surgery, some symptoms could arise that may hint at a complication. According to John Hopkins Medicine, you should call your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Fever or chills
- Redness, swelling, bleeding, or other drainage from the incision site
- More pain around the incision site
- Yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes (jaundice)
- Belly or abdominal pain, cramping, or swelling
- No bowel movement or gas for 3 days
- Pain behind your breastbone
These symptoms could mean that there was an issue during surgery and may be a result of negligence or medical malpractice.
Gallbladder Surgery Malpractice
A study done by the Mayo Clinic in 2009 found that nearly 9 percent of all US surgeons who gave responses claimed they had made a major error in the previous three months. Surgical errors by doctors and nurses can lead to serious problems in a patient and could leave their client with more injuries then they started with.
One of the most well-known gallbladder malpractice issues involved a US Representative from Pennsylvania, John Murtha. In 2010, Murtha went to his doctor in Maryland to get his gallbladder removed. The surgeon performed the surgery using the laparoscopic method and Murtha was immediately discharged. Three days later, Rep. Murtha found himself in the ICU after discovering serious complications resulting from the procedure. Although the specific cause of death was never officially released, Dr. L.D. Britt, president-elect of the American College of Surgeons, said “It certainly is a surgical error, I just don’t know where the mistake [was], how that occurred”.
Open vs. Laparoscopic Surgery
Although laparoscopic procedures are normally categorized as less invasive and lower risk, The Physician Insurers Association of America (PIAA) performed a study that had results claiming far more lawsuits had come from this method.
The study involved reviewing claims relating to gallbladder removal surgery methods and found that 324 laparoscopic claims over 5 years had been made. Of these claims, the study found that 67% resulted from an injury to the biliary tree. What purpose does the biliary tree have in the body? The biliary tree produces digestive juices that are used in the small intestine to break down food in the stomach. According to the Medical University of South Carolina, the biliary tree function is, “essential for proper growth and maintenance of the body” and is an “important part of the digestive process”. The study found that over 80% of injuries related to the biliary tree weren’t recognized until after the surgery was already finished, resulting in claims settling at an average of $236,000.
Lawsuits that resulted from the open/traditional method of gallbladder removal surgery were largely due to the surgeon switching methods in the middle of the operation. This means that their patient agreed to one method, such as the laparoscopic method, but came out of surgery to find out the surgeon switched to an open procedure and left the patient with a 4-6 inch incision on their stomach. The textbook by the American College of Surgeons states, “the surgeon should wish to convert before any complication occurs. It must be emphasized that conversion to open surgery should not be considered a failure or a complication”. In the PIAA study, over 50 percent of cases in which doctors switched methods in the middle of surgery resulted from the surgeon recognizing an injury.
A cholecystectomy, or gallbladder removal surgery, is usually classified as a low-risk procedure. However, there are times where complications can arise as a result of medical malpractice during or after the surgery.
In 2013, an 84-year old woman suffered major complications after what should have been a quick cholecystectomy performed using the laparoscopic method. During the procedure, there was a large amount of blood which limited the surgeons view. Instead of ordering the necessary x-rays needed to safely judge the patient’s situation, he continued with the surgery. After the procedure, the patient developed several injuries as a result of the doctor’s negligence including septic shock and respiratory failure. The case was settled pre-suit and the patient was able to receive proper compensation for her traumatic experience.
In another case, a 65-year old woman was awarded $1.85 million after suing for medical malpractice in her gallbladder removal surgery. During her laparoscopic procedure, the surgeon accidentally made a cut in the patient’s liver which resulted in severe post surgical pain. The patient called the office three different times complaining about her pain but the nurse failed to report these calls to the surgeon.
A 60-year old man received a $425,000 settlement after his gallbladder removal surgery went wrong due to negligence. Initially, he was admitted into the hospital to have surgery on his toe, but nurses noticed that he began to show signs of gallbladder disease while hospitalized. Once it was determined that the patient needed his gallbladder removed, he was admitted into surgery. After 7 hours, surgeons decided they could not successfully complete the surgery after accidentally cutting part of his liver, called his bile duct. This mistake led to the patient undergoing extensive digestive reconstruction work and left him traumatized.
If you or a loved one can relate to any of these stories, you might have a medical malpractice case. Tittle & Perlmuter can help you get justice for this negligence, we’ll fight for you!
Can I File a Gallbladder Surgery Malpractice Lawsuit?
Gallbladder surgery complications resulting from negligence can be scary and life threatening. Are you or a loved one a victim of gallbladder surgery malpractice? Tittle & Perlmuter’s experienced malpractice lawyers can help. Fill out our contact form or call us at 216-308-1552 for more information.