Hernia Repair Malpractice in Virginia

Just yesterday I was reading the medical records in a potential case, and I saw a Virginia surgeon write the following in a pre-op note for a patient who had a large hernia:

Have explained to patient risks of procedure, including damage to liver, kidney, bowel, stomach and surrounding organs. Patient verbalizes understanding. 

So I understand. It’s a CYA note, and its NBD (no big deal – we see them all the time). The doctor is indicating he told the family that while he had done thousands of these hernia repairs laprascopically, and that he would convert to an open procedure should something happen, and he was sure the patient would be fine, sometimes, bad stuff happens. Do I think he took time to explain what injuries were possible to the above listed abdominal organs? No way. Do I think he told the family of the times in his past when bad stuff happened to patients, and he was at fault? I do not. 

And yet I will concede the point that sometimes, that bad stuff is not always preventable for various reasons.

But often, a provider’s negligent care, treatment, and actions during or after a hernia repair surgery, can cause significant pain, suffering, permanent injury, and even death to a surgical patient. 

The more typical injuries you will see during or after a hernia repair, that could be a potential malpractice action, are as follows:

  • Damage to the bowel or neighboring organs when the initial trochar is inserted before the surgery is done

  • Damage to the bowel or neighboring organs during additional trochar placements

  • Failure to diagnose and timely treat intra-operative bowel puncture (done by the surgeon during the surgery)

  • Damage to arteries or veins

  • Failure to properly repair, diagnose or treat damage to arteries or veins

  • Something left behind from the surgery that wasn’t supposed to be there

  • Failure to treat post-surgical infection

  • Failure to diagnose and treat post-surgical complications

No surgery is risk free, but thousands of safe hernia repairs are done everyday in the United States. 

In a recent study of hernia related malpractice lawsuits, the researchers studied 44 filed lawsuits against surgeons for negligent care associated with a hernia repair. In those 44 cases, 

Complications were present in 20 of 44 (45%) suits,

four (9%) of which were because of infection.

Death occurred in five (11%) cases,

and failure to obtain informed consent was alleged in seven (16%) of the suits.

Retained foreign bodies were present in 7 of the 44 (16%) suits.

Other allegations included incorrect surgical technique, insufficient need for surgery, and emotional distress. 

CONCLUSION:
Complications and death resulting from alleged clinical negligence play a significant role in both the initiation and the outcome of malpractice litigation. Retained foreign bodies and lack of informed consent account for roughly one-third of malpractice litigation associated with hernia repairs. Many of these suits may be avoided with proper patient education and documentation of such along with standard operative preventative measures.

Did you read that last line?

The researchers concluded: Many of these suits may be avoided with proper patient education and documentation ALONG WITH STANDARD Operative preventative measures. I’ll take that to also mean that injuries could also be avoided with standard operative preventative measures. 

 

 

Lauren Ellerman

Lauren Ellerman

In 2011, Lauren Ellerman was named "Young Lawyer of the Year" by the Roanoke Bar Association for her work in the community. To speak with Lauren about your personal injury case, contact her at lellerman@frithlawfirm.com.