Joshua Silverman Can Help You Collect Damages in a Bowel Injury Lawsuit
Injuries to the gastro-intestinal tract - which includes the esophagus, the stomach, the duodenum, the small intestine and the colon (or large intestine) can lead to catastrophic consequences or even death. Whether bowel injuries result from direct trauma in the form of a penetrating wound or from an error that occurs during surgery, both the initial insult to the intestine and any delay in diagnosis of the problem can cause a wide spectrum of life-threatening complications. As discussed in further detail below, it is crucial to the well being of a patient that his or her physicians timely identify and treat any injury to the bowel.
Causes of Bowel Injury
Stretched end to end, the small and large intestine would measure nearly 30 feet in length. This creates a large surface area that is vulnerable to injury. Among the potential sources of bowel injury are the following:
- Direct penetrating trauma from a gunshot, knife, or motor vehicle collision. When bowel injuries are inflicted with great force or violence, often there are multiple areas of the bowel and adjacent organs that are injured at the same time. Careful investigation with appropriate x-ray or CT scan and often direct visualization during surgery (called exploratory laparotomy) is important so that the surgeon can identify and treat all injuries without delay.
- Blunt force trauma, such as when the victim in a head-on collision strikes his or her abdomen against the steering wheel of a car or the handlebars of a bicycle. The bowel can be injured from blunt force even though no external injury is apparent. It is essential that victims of blunt force undergo the appropriate diagnostic work-up, including x-ray and CT scan, so that repair can proceed quickly. It is also critical that the diagnostic studies are appropriately interpreted so that bowel injuries are detected early. Failure on the part of a radiologist to recognize a bowel injury on x-ray interferes with other doctors' decision-making and can cause devastating delay in treatment.
- Surgical errors. Surgery performed anywhere within the abdomen carries some risk that the surgeon will inadvertently cause injury to the bowel. Sometimes this occurs when the surgical instrument cuts the intestine while the surgeon is working on an adjacent structure. Sometimes this occurs when tension on scar tissue, called adhesions, causes the bowel wall to tear. Not every inadvertent bowel injury that takes place during surgery is indicative of negligence on the part of the surgeon, though certainly some such injuries will support a case of malpractice. However, surgeons who operate in the abdomen must be aware that there is a risk of causing such an injury. Therefore, they are required to carefully inspect the bowel before finishing surgery so that any problem can be corrected in a timely manner. Failure to do so may cause unnecessary harm to the patient.
- Untreated bowel obstruction. Bowel obstruction is a blockage in the intestine that prevents the passage of gastrointestinal contents. This can result from the buildup of scar tissue from a prior operation or a tumor, among other causes. Complete bowel obstruction is a surgical emergency. The mantra of "Never let the sun set on a bowel obstruction" has been taught to surgeons in training for decades. When the bowel is completely obstructed, the contents back up like in a kinked garden hose. This causes the tissue to become dilated with fluid and can impair the blood supply to the intestine, causing ischemia, or tissue death. Over time, the bowel then perforates, or ruptures, causing the spillage of harmful bowel contents into the abdomen.
Consequences of Bowel Injuries
The functions of the bowel include extracting nutrients from food, processing waste and passing that waste through the body. The contents of the bowel include powerful enzymes and bacteria, and the bowel wall protects the rest of the body from exposure to these potentially harmful substances. When the bowel wall is ruptured, this unsterile material contaminates the abdomen and the organs with which it comes into contact. This is extremely dangerous to a patient, as it quickly causes an inflammatory reaction called peritonitis and can lead to a system-wide infection called sepsis.
Patients who become septic from bowel injuries are critically ill, and often require extended stays in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Often their vital organs, including their kidneys, liver and lungs shut down. Many of them require ventilator support to help them breathe. Some patients undergo multiple surgeries to "wash out" the contaminated abdomen and to remove tissue that has become necrotic and dead as a result of the exposure.
For those patients who survive a bowel injury, or a bowel injury that was not promptly diagnosed and treated, the recovery process is long and difficult. Many patients require extensive rehabilitation to relearn how to walk and care for themselves. It is not uncommon for them to require permanent or at least temporary ostomy bags (such as colostomy or ileostomy). Some patients are hooked up to an IV line known as a PICC line for high dose antibiotics that can cause undesirable side effects. Many victims are unable to return to work or live normal lives. The physical scarring can be severe. The medical bills are staggering.
Litigating Bowel Injury Lawsuits
Bowel injury cases are complex. Joshua Silverman represents victims who have suffered from the devastating consequences of bowel injuries. Cases we handle include bowel injuries from motor vehicle accidents, lacerated bowel occurring during surgeries, delayed diagnosis of bowel injuries, missed findings on x-ray, failure to treat bowel injuries and other similar medical malpractice and other cases.
Web Resources for Bowel Injuries:
- Bowel Trauma - Emedicine Article
Description: This article describes the frequency and severity of bowel injuries. One of the most common causes of bowel injuries is trauma that sends the patient to the emergency room. An emergency room doctor who fails to recognize the potential for a bowel injury places a patient at serious risk of a life threatening infection.
- Colostomy - Medline Plus
Description: Medline, which is a service of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), provides medical information regarding colostomies which are often necessitated by bowel injuries.