Medical Errors: Colon And Bowel Perforations And Leaks Causing Infections, Sepsis | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

The small bowel (small intestine) and the colon are key body organs in maintaining good health. They allow you to digest and absorb liquids and nourishment from the foods you eat while eliminating waste produced during the digestive process from your body. When these systems fail to work properly, it can cause serious illness and eventual death. The small intestine is over 20 feet of digestive tubing that send digestive contents into the colon.


Attending periodic doctor visits and undergoing any recommend testing can help to ensure the health and functionality of your small intestine and colon. While you trust your doctor to alert you to any potential health issues and to perform any required procedures correctly, medical mistakes and errors do occur. At Shapiro & Appleton, we represent people who suffer cut, nicked and perforated small intestine and colon complications due to medical errors by surgeons, which can result in potentially life threatening infections (sepsis). As experienced medical malpractice attorneys serving clients throughout North Carolina and Virginia, you can count on us to hold doctors and surgeons accountable for the damages you suffer as a result of their violations of medical standards. 


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What Causes Colon and Bowel Perforations?


While most people have little technical knowledge about how the digestive system works, they are keenly aware of how it feels when it is not functioning properly.  The American College of Colon and Rectal Surgeons advises that the colon and bowels consist of two parts: the small bowel or small intestine, which processes liquids and absorbs nutrients from the foods we eat and the colon or large bowel, which handles the complex task of processing and eliminating waste. When either of these systems are compromised by injuries or illnesses, the results can be devastating.


Colon and bowel perforations (cuts, nicks, holes) occur when any opening or hole forms in either of these areas—which can be iatrogenically caused, meaning caused by a surgical tool. This allows the contents of the stomach and intestines to leak into the abdominal area, resulting in potentially life threatening infections commonly called sepsis. Colon and bowel perforations can occur as a result of any of the following errors: 


  • Lacerations with surgical tool;
  • Harmonic scalpel burns a hole or opening
  • Ligasure surgical tool causes an opening or hole
  • Other surgical tool mistakenly causes nick or burn


Cuts, tears, or holes in either of these areas can happen due to accidental injuries and mistakes your doctor makes when performing surgery or routine tests, such as a colonoscopy. 


Infections Caused By Colon and Bowel Perforations


When missed diagnosis’ or surgical errors result in perforations of the colon and bowels, it allows food, bacteria, and fecal matter to leak into the body. Colon and bowel leaks put the patient at high risk for dangerous infections. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that these infections can trigger a chain reaction. Sepsis may occur as a result. 


Your immune system naturally works to fight off germs and bacteria by flooding your body with disease fighting chemicals. Unfortunately, and for reasons that are largely unknown, these chemicals can end up turning on themselves. Sepsis occurs as a result and is the body’s extreme response to fighting infection. It spreads through the bloodstream, causing inflammation throughout the body. Sepsis can cause damage to body organs, including the brain, heart, lungs, and kidneys, and can lead to respiratory problems, tissue damage, and organ failure. If left untreated, it can eventually result in the patient’s death. Symptoms of sepsis include: 


  • Extreme discomfort or pain;
  • A high heart rate;
  • Shortness of breath;
  • Fever and chills;
  • Feelings of confusion or being disoriented. 


Sepsis is a major concern when medical mistakes and errors result in colon or bowel perforations. Those most at risk include adults over the age of 65, people with weakened immune systems, and those suffering from other chronic health conditions.  If sepsis is diagnosed, surgeons will often need to re-open the abdominal area, and “washout” the abdominal cavity on several repeat occasions, many times using a device called a wound vacuum. Sepsis is very serious, and can be fatal without numerous steps to control infection, including those outlined above.


When Medical Errors Are To Blame


Colon and bowel perforations can happen on their own due to underlying medical conditions. However, medical mistakes and errors involving nicked, cut, lacerated bowels are among the leading causes. In an article for the Legal Examiner, we discussed some of the common types of medical malpractice. Those most likely to be responsible for colon or bowel perforations include: 


  • Procedural errors: Doctors can be held responsible for errors that occur during surgical procedures or health screenings, such as colonoscopies, that result in cuts or tears in the colon or bowels. 
  • Surgical errors: Failure to promptly recognize and control colon and bowel perforations caused by a surgical tool resulting in serious harm to a patient.

Contact Our Experienced Medical Malpractice Attorneys


Medical negligence involves doctors and surgeons who deviate from medical standards by taking actions that cause harm to patients or by failing to take appropriate precautions to prevent unintended injuries. At Shapiro & Appleton, we hold doctors, surgeons, and other health providers accountable for clear medical errors resulting in colon or bowel lacerations or perforations. 


In a Virginia medical malpractice lawsuit, damages you may be entitled to include compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and for the pain or suffering you experience. To discuss your rights in filing a claim, contact us for a free confidential consultation.