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Friday, March 30, 2007

He’d repaired about 120 injuries after another doctor’s attempt: A surgical error lawsuit

Like thousands of other patients every year, Katherine Adams learned that a commonly performed surgery to remove the gallbladder can carry serious risk. A surgeon cut her bile duct during the operation, a mistake that can lead to serious complications and death. It's also one of the biggest causes of surgical malpractice claims. Katherine won $560,000 in an Illinois lawsuit, which was upheld upon appeal.

Katherine underwent reconstruction surgery, which initially appeared successful. Now, less than three years after that, it is not clear whether she remains healthy. She may need to be monitored for the rest of her life, according to an expert surgeon who testified at the trial. His qualifications? He had repaired about 120 injuries to the bile-duct system created after another doctor attempted a laparoscopic cholecystectomy. In other words, this complication has occurred so often that now a surgeon has become an expert at fixing this particular surgical error!

Surgeons typically remove gallbladders if a patient has serious gallstone problems. The modern-day gallbladder operation, performed by inserting high-tech equipment and a camera into four small incisions in the abdomen, has become the standard. However, studies have found bile-duct injuries occur from two to 10 times as often in laparoscopic surgery as in the older, large-incision surgery

Advice to people facing gall bladder surgery: Ask your surgeon the most likely complication, and how s/he will prevent it. For this particular form of surgery, the surgeon may use a type of X-ray called an intraoperative cholangiogram.

Read a famous gall bladder surgical error story, or read the appeals court’s judgment in the lawsuit, or David Armstrong’s source story.

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