| Read Time: 4 minutes | Medical Malpractice

There are telltale signs of a bowel injury after surgery, including severe pain and a high fever. If you suspect you or someone you love might have a bowel injury after undergoing surgery, it is first and foremost important that you seek immediate emergency medical attention.

Left untreated, a bowel injury can be deadly. If you find yourself on the other side of a bowel injury and are now recovering but wondering if you have any legal recourse, we can help. Contact us today to get started.

What Is a Bowel Injury?

Simply put, a bowel injury is a puncture or perforation in the bowel wall that causes waste material to leak. If you recently underwent a type of abdominal surgery and are experiencing certain symptoms, you may have a bowel injury.

Suppose your bowel injury is a result of surgery. In that case, it is likely because the surgeon cut, perforated, or burned a hole in the bowel, colon, or intestines, causing the bowel to leak waste into your abdominal cavity, potentially leading to severe infection. 

Bowel Injury Symptoms

There are several symptoms of a bowel injury. You may not even suspect it, but coupled with recent abdominal surgery, it may be more apparent that a bowel injury is what is going on. 

Common symptoms seen indicating a potential bowel injury include:

  • Pain and cramping: Severe and persistent abdominal pain that does not improve over time or with medication or quick onset of cramp-type pains that affect your abdominal cavity.
  • Nausea and vomiting: Unexplained nausea and vomiting that is atypical for you. 
  • Bloating: Significant bloating and abdominal distension of your belly. 
  • Bowel movement changes: Sudden diarrhea or constipation, not present before surgery.

Other symptoms include:

  • Fever, 
  • Chills, 
  • Headache,
  • Tachycardia (rapid heartbeat), 
  • Tachypnea (rapid breathing), 
  • Bloody stool, and
  • Tenderness of the abdomen.

You should seek immediate medical attention if you are experiencing any of these symptoms. Left untreated, bowel injuries can lead to further complications, including sepsis and even death. 

Perforated Bowel Diagnosis and Treatment

A bowel injury is typically diagnosed using a combination of techniques. The attending physician will assess your symptoms and, coupled with recent abdominal surgery, may suspect a bowel injury and send you for further diagnostics.

These typically include X-rays or CT scans of the abdominal cavity. Sometimes, if it’s not immediately apparent but suspected, you will undergo exploratory surgery to locate and repair the injury. 

Treatment for a bowel injury almost always involves surgical repair to fix the hole in the bowel. IV antibiotics are administered to prevent further infection. 

If the perforation is diagnosed and repaired quickly, you may recover with few additional complications. Sometimes, the perforation can be detected immediately after surgery, while other times, symptoms begin to manifest later, delaying the diagnosis. 

In severe cases, the patient may require a colostomy bag if the bowel cannot be sufficiently repaired. 

Possible complications of bowel perforation include:

  • Sepsis,
  • Organ failure,
  • Peritonitis (infection of abdominal tissue), and
  • Death.

The sooner the bowel injury is diagnosed and treated, the better the prognosis. If you suffered a bowel injury after surgery, it may result from medical negligence. 

What Types of Surgeries Can Cause Bowel Injuries?

Bowel injuries can occur during more routine surgeries than you initially thought. They can occur as the result of almost any laparoscopic abdominal surgery. During the exploration and travel of the camera or surgical tools, it is possible to knick the bowel, perforating the lining. 

Other routine surgeries can lead to bowel injuries, including:

  • Hysterectomy,
  • Other gynecologic surgeries,
  • Appendectomy, and
  • Gastrointestinal surgeries.

If you underwent any of these types of surgeries and suffered a bowel perforation, it might be the result of the doctor’s negligence. Your attorney can advise you if you should pursue a medical malpractice claim against your doctor.

Proving the Injury Was a Result of Medical Malpractice

It is not enough to say you underwent surgery and wound up with a bowel injury. You must prove the surgeon deviated from the accepted standard of medical care to have a 

successful medical malpractice claim. 

You must prove four essential elements:

  • The existence of a doctor-patient relationship,
  • The doctor was negligent and deviated from the accepted standard of practice,
  • The doctor’s negligence was the proximate cause of the injury,
  • Your injury caused specific damages (e.g., medical expenses, lost wages).

As the plaintiff, you have the burden of proving the physician’s actions breached the standard of care. A bowel injury itself is not always a medical negligence claim, but the doctor’s failure to recognize and treat bowel perforation promptly is.

These claims can be complicated and complex, requiring extensive investigation and discovery. It is best to consult an experienced medical malpractice attorney.

Not all bowel injuries are the result of surgery or medical negligence but rather other medical conditions. These include:

  • Ulcerative colitis,
  • Crohn’s disease,
  • Appendicitis, and 
  • Diverticulitis. 

If you are unsure if your bowel injury relates to a pre-existing condition or is the result of a recent surgery, it may require a bit of investigation to get to the bottom of it. At BMBF, we can assist you with determining if you have legal options available. 

Bowel Injury Compensation

If you successfully prove your medical malpractice claim, you may be entitled to significant compensation, including economic and non-economic damages.

Economic Damages

A plaintiff’s economic damages represent their tangible or calculable losses due to their injury. These often include:

  • Medical expenses, 
  • Anticipated medical costs in the future,
  • Lost wages, and
  • Loss of future earnings.

The best evidence of economic losses is receipts, medical records, invoices, pay stubs, tax documentation, and any other documents showing a financial loss.

Noneconomic Damages

Conversely, noneconomic damages represent a person’s subjective losses. It is more difficult to assign a monetary value to these because one person’s subjective loss may drastically differ from someone with a similar injury.

Non-economic damages represent the negative impact the injury has on your life and often include:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress,
  • Mental anguish, 
  • Loss of enjoyment of life, 
  • Loss of consortium,
  • Permanent injury or disability, and 
  • Disfigurement.

Because these damages are subjective, it is imperative to have a skilled attorney negotiating or advocating on your behalf to ensure you receive appropriate compensation and not less than what you deserve. 

Get in Contact With Bowel Injury Attorneys Today

At Baird Mandalas Brockstedt & Federico, we are named one of the top 25 medical malpractice trial lawyers because of our dedication and success.

Suffering a bowel injury after surgery is terrifying enough, but if it is due to a doctor’s negligence, it can be especially devastating. Contact us to schedule a confidential, compassionate consultation.

Author Photo

Phil Federico is a partner at Baird Mandalas Brockstedt & Federico where he helps lead the Mass Tort / Class Action and Environmental Law practices, transitioning into these areas after beginning his career as a medical malpractice litigator.

Phil has led and been involved in historic and groundbreaking litigation with verdicts and settlements exceeding one billion dollars.

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