Bowel Perforation Settlement: $3.5 Million
2014 Medical Malpractice Trial Report
Death from bowel perforation and infection following elective disc surgery
On 5/28/09, the plaintiff’s decedent underwent back surgery with both anterior and posterior approach. The back surgery was uneventful. Without ever leaving the hospital, the plaintiff’s decedent died nine days later, at the age of 59, from mesenteric ischemia, peritonitis and sepsis.
During the post-operative course, and over the period of several days, the patient developed nausea and vomiting, fever, tachycardia, hypoactive or absent bowel sounds, no flatus, firmness of the abdomen, tenderness of the abdomen, abdominal pain, abdominal distention and abnormal lab values, such as an elevated white blood cell count, elevated arterial lactic acid levels and metabolic acidosis.
When the patient was eventually taken to the operating room by a non-party surgeon, and the abdomen was opened, there were patches of gangrene along the entire length of the small bowel. The descending colon and transverse colon were also mottled. In contrast, the descending colon, sigmoid colon, stomach and liver all appeared viable, however, the surgeon believed that this alone was incompatible with survival. A second surgeon was called in for a second opinion, as was a vascular surgeon. They all concurred that this was, in all probability, a lethal event and the decision was made that resection or bypass would not be helpful. The patient was transferred back to the ICU, was made comfort measures only, and he died shortly thereafter.
The plaintiff claimed that several members of the surgical staff failed to recognize the signs and symptoms of an infection and intervene in a timely way, resulting in the patient’s premature and preventable death.
The defendants contended that they all met the standard of care, that the infection was not easily diagnosed, and that the treatment was done in a timely way. The death from complications was rare, not foreseeable, and could not have been prevented.
The case settled during discovery and following mediation for $3,500,000.
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