On March 27, 2013, the surviving daughter of a woman who died after having a laparoscopic cholecystectomy on April 23, 2010 at a Sante Fe, New Mexico hospital filed a medical malpractice case in the state District Court. The New Mexico medical malpractice claim alleges that the 68-year-old woman complained of abdominal pain not controlled by pain medication shortly after her surgery that was performed at a surgery center associated with the hospital. She was then admitted to the hospital where she had exploratory surgery the following day during which it was discovered that the woman’s duodenum was torn during the prior day’s surgery. The surgeon attempted to repair the tear but the woman’s condition declined.
The woman was again brought to the operating room where the surgeon discovered that the duodenum repair had leaked. The woman became septic and developed peritonitis and gangrene. She was later transferred to another New Mexico hospital where she died from sepsis on June 19, 2010.
What Is Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy?
Laparoscopic cholecystectomy involves the removal of the gallbladder by laparoscopic techniques. Laparoscopic surgery (also referred to as minimally invasive surgery) is surgery performed with the assistance of a video camera and several thin surgical instruments during which small incisions of up to one-half inch are made, ports (tubes) are placed through the incisions, and a camera and surgical instruments are introduced through the ports into the patient. The surgeon manipulates the camera to view the organs and surgical site while using the surgical instruments to perform whatever surgery is necessary. Tissue and organs can then be repaired or removed using the ports.
Laparoscopic surgery offers patients less discomfort following surgery, quicker recovery times, shorter stays in the hospital, often less bleeding, smaller surgical scars, and an earlier return to daily activities following surgery. One major limitation of laparoscopic surgery when compared to open surgery is that the surgeon’s field of view is often more limited and the view is two-dimensional inasmuch as the surgeon views the operative site using a monitor screen.
The overall laparoscopic cholecystectomy complication rate is less than 2% (such as bleeding, infection, leakage of bile in the abdomen, pneumonia, blood clots, heart problems, surgical injury to the common bile duct, duodenum or the small intestine) and is similar to the complication rate for traditional open gallbladder surgery when performed by a properly trained laparoscopic surgeon. Less than 5% of all laparoscopic cholecystectomy procedures are converted to open procedures, usually due to excessive scarring or if the anatomy of the structures is not clear. The risk of having to convert to open gallbladder surgery is increased for patients who are obese, patients who have a history of prior abdominal surgery causing dense scar tissue, acute cholecystitis, or patients who experience bleeding problems during the surgery.
How Is Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy Performed?
The patient is given general anesthesia and is asleep during the entire procedure. The surgeon makes an approximately half-inch incision around the umbilicus ( belly button) and three additional quarter- to half-inch incisions. Four laparoscopic ports are placed through the incisions for the laparoscopic camera and surgical instruments. A laparoscope (a round, long instrument with a video lens at its tip) is inserted through the umbilicus port so that the surgeon can view the procedure on a monitor. The other ports are used to insert the thin surgical instruments to separate the gallbladder from to the liver and the bile duct which is then removed through one of the ports. The laparoscope and surgical instruments are then removed from the patient’s abdomen and the incisions are closed.
Medical malpractice claims involving laparoscopic cholecystectomy often allege that the surgeon who performed the procedure was improperly or inadequately trained, that the surgeon used the improper technique or improperly performed the procedure, that the surgeon failed to recognize inadvertent and unintended injury done to adjacent organs during surgery in a timely fashion and/or failed to timely repair such injury, and/or the surgeon negligently failed to convert from laparoscopic surgery to open surgery when the need to do so should have been recognized by the surgeon.
If you or a loved one suffered complications as a result of laparoscopic cholecystectomy in New Mexico or in another U.S. state, you should promptly seek the advice of a New Mexico medical malpractice attorney or a medical malpractice attorney in your state who may agree to investigate your possible medical malpractice claim for you and represent you in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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