Case #3022: Medical Negligence Leads to Emergency Operation
On December 17, the Plaintiff, a 58-year-old female, was admitted to the Defendant Hospital under the care of her general surgeon for treatment for diverticulitis.
On December 18, the Defendant performed a colectomy, removing 16.5 centimeters of affected sigmoid bowel. Subsequently, the Plaintiff was discharged to her home on December 25.
On January 5, the Plaintiff presented to the Defendant Hospital’s emergency room with complaints of severe right lower quadrant abdominal pain similar to the previous pain she experienced prior to her surgery. A CT scan of the abdomen and pelvis revealed a significant right lower quadrant collection. The differential diagnoses included colitis, appendicitis and/or abscess formation. The Plaintiff was then admitted to the Defendant Hospital for bowel rest, IV antibiotics, and fluids as well as pain medication.
On January 16, the Plaintiff was discharged home on oral antibiotics for ten days with instructions to follow-up with the Defendant surgeon on January 26. On January 26, the Plaintiff followed up as instructed. The Defendant noted improvement with near resolution of all of her symptoms.
On February 4, the Plaintiff telephoned the Defendant at his office, complaining of new onset, severe abdominal pain, an inability to ingest foods, and difficulty with mobility. She was not provided an opportunity to speak with the Defendant himself, but spoke with the Defendant’s “nurse.” In breach of the standards of care, it is alleged that the Defendant never provided the Plaintiff an opportunity to be seen and examined in his office. Given her history of diverticulitis as well as a bowel resection, the Defendant was obligated to actually see the Plaintiff and examine her as well as perform the necessary tests and/or studies to rule out a bowel leak. Instead of seeing and examining the Plaintiff as indicated hereinabove, the Defendant simply called in prescriptions for narcotic pain medication, antibiotics and anti-nausea medication to her pharmacy. The Plaintiff took the medication as prescribed.
On February 14, the Plaintiff was seen by her primary care physician since the Defendant had negligently failed to respond. At that time, the Plaintiff’s blood pressure was 104/64 with a heart rate of 165 and she had abdominal rebound tenderness.
Accordingly, she was sent to a different hospital for a CT scan of the abdomen which confirmed the presence of a perforated bowel requiring emergency, operative intervention.
By the time, the Plaintiff was taken to an operating room, she was in shock.
Operative findings included the presence of several liters of foul fluid, and an obviously perforated sigmoid colon with a gangrenous cecum. The bowel leak had progressed to the point of peritonitis, sepsis, and shock with extensive necrotic (dead) tissue due to the disease process. Postoperatively, the Plaintiff developed acute renal failure, respiratory distress, hypertension, abdominal compartment syndrome, and congestive heart failure secondary to the septic shock.
It is alleged that the Plaintiff required hemodialysis, a prolonged stay in the Intensive Care Unit, as well as step down unit, and a temporary tracheostomy. After a long and stormy postoperative course, the Plaintiff was discharged to a long-term acute care facility for further recuperation and rehabilitation on March 9. She also required several other surgical procedures to address the colostomy and secondary hernia which developed. She has been left with permanent abdominal wall defects and weakness.