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Surgery Negligence
Heart Patient Dies From Perforated Bowel

Heart Patient Dies From Perforated Bowel

While undergoing heart surgery, Donald's bowel was perforated by the surgeon's fingers. The injury was not diagnosed and he died shortly after.

After being diagnosed with Peripheral Arterial Disease, Donald was advised that he needed aorto-bifemoral bypass grafting. He consented, although the consent form was extremely brief and did not warn of the risks of death, stroke and other serious complications. The consent process therefore fell below a reasonable standard.

The operation was carried out and was deemed to be a success. The surgeon noted that he could feel a pulse in both ankles at the close of the procedure. This suggests that he was happy the blood supply had been restored to both legs, which was the aim of the operation.

However, it soon became apparent that Donald was not very well. On the first night post-surgery he had no sensation in his left leg and there was no palpable pulse. He also had low blood pressure. The surgeon was called and Donald was taken back to theatre for an examination of the abdomen.

In theatre, the left groin wound was found to be contaminated with faeces, and this was leaking into the abdomen. After further exploration, it became apparent that the wall of the bowel had been perforated during the initial procedure by the surgeon's fingers. This was causing faeces to flow from the bowel and into Donald's leg and abdomen.

The surgeon tried to repair the perforated bowel, which involved removing the graft that had previously been inserted. In turn, this disrupted the blood supply to Donald's legs, leaving his legs deficient of oxygen. He was subsequently fitted with a colostomy to divert the faecal flow away from the inside of the abdomen.

Donald returned to the ward but his condition deteriorated. Due to the lack of blood supply to his legs, the tissue began to break down and die. Doctors decided that he needed a double leg amputation above the knee. Sadly he did not survive the operation.

This tragic consequence could have been avoided, had the surgeon realised that he had perforated the bowel and carried out an immediate repair. Even if the injury was not initially seen, there were opportunities to diagnose the injury at the close of the operation, as Donald was displaying symptoms compatible with bowel perforation. Medical staff overlooked these, instead choosing to send him back to the ward.

These mistakes cost Donald his life. We helped his family pursue a claim for the terrible impact this has had on all their lives. They were awarded over £100,000 compensation.

(Details which might identify our client have been changed.)

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