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Medical Malpractice: Iliac Artery Damaged During Laparoscopic Hysterectomy, Permanent Leg Injuries

The results:  $1.1 Million confidential settlement

Case Name: [Confidential]

Court: [Confidential]

Attorney:

Richard N. Shapiro

Paralegal:

Paula M.

 

What Happened

Plaintiff, age 51, underwent a laparoscopic hysterectomy in September 2015. During the procedure, a surgical complication occurred, and a general surgeon responded to assist the OB/GYN in managing the complication. Plaintiff alleged that her right external iliac artery was ligated at some point during the course of the surgery, resulting in additional care and treatment, including subsequent hospitalizations and surgery. 

The plaintiff claimed over $300,000.00 in medical expenses and annual wage loss of about $41,000 per year through to her retirement age.

Key Legal Strategy

[Confidential besides the details listed above, suit was filed and extensive discovery and numerous depositions were conducted]

The Results

$1.1 Million settlement.  The defendants contested both liability and damages. The parties agreed to a voluntary mediation, and the case settled under confidential terms for $1.1 Million.

[Party names, location, court, details, all withheld under confidentiality agreement]

Medical Malpractice Dangers Arising from Hysterectomy

Our Virginia Beach medical malpractice law firm has handled a large number of “hysterectomy gone wrong” cases. For example, we have handled a large number of OB/GYN medical error cases where our clients were seriously injured due to preventable medical errors.  Also, we review many of these potential cases and decline many that do not involve violations of the medical standard of care by OB/GYN doctors. 

What do we find are the most significant medical errors that occur during laparoscopic hysterectomies?  The most common errors fall into two categories:

  1. Damage to the iliac artery or femoral artery, discussed below; and
  2. Damage to the bowel, whether the small intestine or the colon, resulting in a perforation, cut, or nicked bowel that can cause sepsis, which is a very serious internal infection.

ILIAC ARTERY INJURIES

First, let's talk about damage to the iliac artery.  The iliac artery branches off the heart and travels in the area of the body that is fairly close to where doctors are removing the uterus and other anatomical parts as part of a hysterectomy and the related procedures and supplies the major femoral artery which in turn supplies blood flow to the leg.  For example, in a laparoscopic hysterectomy, the doctors have to pierce through the abdominal wall and into the abdomen using what is called a trocar.  In one of our cases on this website, the doctor, in placing the very initial trocar through the abdomen to begin the surgery, let the trocar move too far inside the abdomen, and it stabbed through the iliac artery, not once but twice.  While doctors are conducting a laparoscopic hysterectomy, they have a camera inside the abdomen early in the procedure, but there is no camera inside the abdomen until the initial trocar pierces through the abdomen and gets inside. 

Some doctors believe that the initial trocar entry, which is “blind,” can be the most important maneuver-it can be simple, but requires experience and proper technique. In this particular prior case I'm referring to above about damage to the iliac artery, blood was already spurting everywhere inside the patient's body, and the procedure was just beginning.  This is an example of a medical error involving damage to the iliac artery.  Typically, an emergency is called and a vascular surgeon rushes to the operating room and needs to fix the damage to the iliac artery, (a vascular surgery) to the extent possible.  If the iliac injury is life threatening, the hysterectomy itself may not occur and may be postponed. 

In another OB/GYN case, which is referred to above, a physician sutured or ligated the external iliac artery during the hysterectomy or just after the hysterectomy developed complications.  The iliac artery provides blood supply to the femoral artery and to the legs, and if blood stops flowing through the iliac artery, it can result in very serious neurological damage to the entire leg below that area, if not corrected promptly.  So, iliac artery injuries can result in death, they can result in the need for additional surgeries, and can result in permanent damage to the entire lower extremity, the leg.  The body is amazing in its complexity, and there is a network of branch arteries that permit partial blood blow around a damaged iliac artery, kind of like a safety valve system.  But make no mistake here: damage to the iliac artery can result in permanent injuries to the leg.  Of course, a properly conducted laparoscopic hysterectomy should never result in damage to an iliac artery.  Whether the iliac damage is a result of a violation of the medical standard of care must be determined on a case-by-case basis.

CUT, NICKED, PERFORATED BOWEL INJURIES LEADING TO SEPSIS

An even more common and unfortunate medical error during a laparoscopic hysterectomy is a cut, nicked or perforated bowel.  We do review a number of these cases and have taken some of these cases to trial for medical malpractice. 

In one notable case, during a laparoscopic hysterectomy, we contended that the OB/GYN cut through our client's colon, also called the large bowel, and didn't appreciate it, advising our client that the surgery had gone well.  But this patient/our client didn't get released from the hospital within 2 days, as planned and, in fact, she was in tremendous pain, and no one seemed to know why.  Many days later she remained hospitalized, ill and on antibiotics.  Ultimately, she began to slightly improve and was released from the hospital, but within a very short period of time was taken to the emergency room by her daughter and was found to be in life-threatening danger.  A general surgeon found through CT scan that contents of her bowel had been pouring into her abdominal cavity for a number of days, and there was no question that the damage must have done during the previous hysterectomy.  Still, the OB/GYN denied that he did the damage.  We of course had to obtain expert witnesses in the field of the same specialty:  OB/GYN surgery, and our experts believed that the doctor had perforated (cut) the colon, whether he appreciated it or not, because there were no other likely possibilities to have caused this type of slit or cut in the colon. 

Moreover, once a doctor mistakenly cuts or nicks the colon or the small intestine, it is surprisingly difficult to simply sew up that cut or slit.  Many times, a portion of the small intestine or colon must be literally removed in a follow-up corrective surgery, and then you get into real serious complicated problems: the patient has to wear a colostomy bag for weeks or months.  Sometimes the colostomy bag, which the client must defecate into daily, can be eliminated by yet another surgery if things go well.  But if things don't go well, some patients have to wear a colostomy bag for the rest of their life-meaning that they defecate into a bag for their remaining life.  The patient must defecate into a bag and remove the contents of the bag and change the bag out every time they defecate.  These injuries are devastating and quite serious and, of course, are completely preventable through proper medical care during the hysterectomy.  For more information about some of the cases we've handled in this area, and more details about cut/nicked bowels resulting in sepsis, read some of the other articles below. 

Related Info about Iliac and Femoral Artery Damage that Can Occur During Surgery

Related Info about Medical and Surgical Errors Resulting in Cut or Nicked Bowels Resulting in Sepsis

 

1.1 Million Settlement