$750,000 Settlement for Victim of Cut Bowel From Botched Laparoscopic Hysterectomy | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

What Happened

Our Virginia medical malpractice client had her intestines cut during an improperly performed hysterectomy and developed life-threatening infections.

The woman was 32 and working as a school teacher when she received a diagnosis of endometriosis. Numerous trials of prescription medications failed to relieve her pelvic pain, so her gynecologist recommended a hysterectomy.

A laparoscopic procedure was scheduled even though the surgical team knew that removing the woman’s uterus by making only small incision in her abdomen would be complicated by the woman’s extreme obesity. Additional problems occurred on the day of the surgery when the woman’s excess fat made inflating her gut with pumped in air impossible. Inflation — or, in medicalese, insufflation — is done to create spacing between the numerous delicate organs packed into the gut. The better a surgeon can distinguish the location of each organ, the less likely he or she is to mistakenly damage one of them.

The surgeon decided to continue with the hysterectomy despite the failure of the inflation step. Our medical malpractice client became severely ill almost immediately after coming out anesthesia. A CT scan performed six days later revealed a hole in her bowel, and an emergency intestinal repair surgery was scheduled immediately.

The second surgical team found two holes in the woman’s bowel. The repairs were successful, but our client spent months afterwards battling infections caused by the leaking of waste into her gut. She also needed several follow-up surgeries to drain and repair abscesses.

The woman’s medical nightmare did not fully end until she underwent two final surgeries to remove scar tissue, or adhesions, left behind by the repeated infections and earlier surgeries.

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Deadly Surgical Error: Nicked Bowel during Hysterectomy

Key Legal Strategy

Our Virginia medical malpractice law firm assigned three plaintiff’s attorneys to this severe, but difficult to prove, case of surgical error. The legal team’s main challenge involved proving that the surgeon who performed the laparoscopic hysterectomy failed to follow standard procedures.

To make this obvious, our medical malpractice attorneys hired three gynecology experts to review their client’s medical records. The experts discovered the failure to insufflate and highlighted the surgeon’s note that that the hysterectomy was “uneventful.” It was not ever clear that any attempt was made to check for possible errors like bowel perforations.

Each of the experts affirmed their willingness to testify at trial that the surgeon neglected to comply with the appropriate standard of care for performing a hysterectomy on a patient like our medical malpractice client. That did not become necessary, as the surgeon’s medical malpractice insurance company agreed to settle all the woman’s claims for $750,000.

Confidentiality conditions demanded by the insurance company prevent us from sharing additional details about this Virginia medical malpractice case and settlement. We mention what we can to illustrate how we fight for victims of preventable surgical errors.

Court and Date: Virginia Beach Circuit Court, Virginia Beach, VA, Oct. 1, 2012

Staff: Three staff attorneys