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Medical Negligence
Peptic Ulcers

Peptic Ulcers

Since scientists discovered the root cause behind peptic ulcers, treatment has become particularly effective, and the prospect of recovery is generally positive. However, if the condition is not recognised in time, a peptic ulcer can lead to serious complications. If this delay is due to medical negligence, a patient may well have been the victim of substandard level of care.

What is a Peptic Ulcer?

Affecting around one in eight people in the UK, a peptic ulcer is an open sore which develops either in the stomach lining (known more specifically as a gastric ulcer) or in the small intestine (a duodenal ulcer).

While there are a number of possible causes, a peptic ulcer will commonly develop for one of two reasons:-

1. H. pylori a type of bacteria that aggravates the lining of the stomach and small intestine;

2. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) which can irritate the stomach and small intestine lining.

Whatever the cause of a peptic ulcer, nearly all patients will experience a burning pain in the centre of their abdomen. If the ulcer is in the stomach, this will often occur immediately after eating. On the other hand, if the ulcer is in the small intestine, pain will usually develop a couple of hours after eating. Other symptoms will vary from patient to patient, but may include:-

  • Indigestion;
  • Heart burn;
  • Vomiting and nausea;
  • Loss of appetite.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Peptic Ulcers

If a patient is suspected to have a peptic ulcer, tests will need to be carried out to either confirm or exclude this diagnosis. There are various tests which may be performed, but the first port of call is often an endoscopy. This involves passing a small tube through the mouth and into the stomach and duodenum. A small camera attached to the end of the tube will relay images back to a screen, allowing doctors to see whether or not an ulcer is present.

If an ulcer is diagnosed, doctors must identify the cause, as this will determine a patient's treatment plan. For example, if an ulcer has developed because of H. pylori, antibiotics will be needed to treat the infection.

Complications of Peptic Ulcers

As long as a peptic ulcer is diagnosed and treated in a timely fashion, then the prognosis is good: in all probability a patient will make a full recovery, while treatment may involve as little as antibiotics or a change in medication.

However, if a peptic ulcer is allowed to develop for too long, a patient's condition will deteriorate. There may be additional symptoms such as vomiting blood, passing dark, tar-like stools and sudden, sharp abdomen pain that gets worse. These should act as warning signs that urgent medical attention is needed. Otherwise, serious complications may arise, including internal bleeding, perforation or gastric obstruction.

If this delay in diagnosis (and subsequent delay in treatment) is due to the actions or inaction of medical professionals, a patient needs to speak to a legal expert, as it could be possible to make a medical negligence claim.

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