Errors during gallbladder removal surgeries can result in serious or fatal injuries. While the surgery uses laparoscopic techniques and is designed to be minimally invasive, unskilled or negligent surgeons can cut or nick the bile duct causing bile to leak into the abdomen.
The gallbladder is a small organ situated under the liver. It stores a substance called bile that the body uses to break down fat and digest food. Gallbladder removal surgery is commonly performed when patients develop gallstones, small hard deposits that develop when the elements that form bile become imbalanced. Gallstones are made up of some of the same materials that bile is composed of, including cholesterol and bilirubin.
The procedure is most commonly performed as a laparoscopic cholecystectomy, a non-invasive surgery where a camera is attached to a long scope that is inserted into the patient through the abdomen. The surgeon watches the feed from the video and directs her instruments to remove the gallstones or to remove the entire gallbladder. Gallstone disease is one of the most common digestive system problems. Gallbladders are not vital organs; with a few lifestyle and diet changes, it is possible for patients to live without a gallbladder.
Medical studies estimate that bile duct injuries occur in about 1 in every 1,000 laparoscopic cholecystectomy procedures. Only about 10% to 30% of all bile duct injuries are detected by the surgeon at the time of injury.
To prevent or spot injuries to the bile ducts, doctors can perform an x-ray called intraoperative cholangiography (IOC). The doctor will insert a catheter that will drain the bile in the gallbladder into the common bile duct, and a special dye will be injected into the common bile duct. This x-ray can allow doctors to see the anatomy of the bile duct before surgery in order to prevent injury. It can also be used to spot leaks in duct after surgery or the presence of any retained gallbladder stones in the common bile duct.
Patients with bile duct injuries may manifest the following symptoms:
- Failing to recover quickly from gallbladder surgery
- Abdominal pain or swelling in the abdomen
While many bile duct injuries are preventable, some are not. A bile duct injury does not necessarily mean that the surgeon was negligent. Most injuries are repairable if spotted and treated quickly. If doctors fail to perform diagnostic tests like an IOC or fail to notice signs and symptoms of bile duct injury, the patient can develop devastating and potentially fatal complications, including cholangitis and sepsis.
Damaged Bile Ducts Caused by Medical Malpractice
Gilman & Bedigian can help you hold medical professionals responsible for negligent bile duct injuries. If you or a loved one has been harmed, call our offices today for a free consultation.