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Is a Bowel Perforation During Surgery a "Known Reconized Complication?"

 

A:

It depends on who you ask.

Many surgeons will tell you that bowel injury during surgery is a known recognized and accepted complication.

If true, then most doctors would agree that the failure to timely recognize and treat the bowel injury at the time of surgery would be a departure from good and accepted medical care.

You would think that makes perfect and logical sense right?

However, there are doctors who argue, as a defense in their bowel perforation case, that recognizing the bowel injury was impossible.

Here's one typical example of such a defense:

"I was using a cautery device to stop blood vessels from bleeding. It's possible that the extreme heat from the cautery device caused a thermal burn to the bowel. That thermal burn may deteriorate over days and weeks and it would be impossible for me to see it at the time of surgery."

Another example is that the patient's bowel was already at risk because of prior surgeries and also their chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

 

For the patient who goes in for unrelated surgery and comes out with an unrecognized bowel injury that is only diagnosed and treated days or weeks later, that is never an accepted complication.