Bariatric surgery is done to help obese people lose drastic amounts of weight. But the surgery itself can be pretty drastic. It often involves bypassing a large part of the stomach by permanently stapling it shut. It also often involves bypassing a large part of the small intestine so the patient doesn’t absorb as much calories (and other nutrition) from foods as before. This means the surgery deliberately induces a “malabsorption” for the patient, which the patient must diligently take lifelong medicines and a special diet to combat.
Weight loss surgery is an exploding industry in the United States with billions of dollars in revenue. The medical malpractice issues that our firm has seen with this surgery include:
- Surgery on weight loss candidates who really don’t qualify for it. Surgery is supposed to be a last resort for people who are at least 100 pounds overweight or have a Body Mass Index of 40 or higher (or 35 with a documented disease related to the obesity).
- Surgery conducted by surgeons who lack proper training, or dedication, to follow their patients closely.
- Surgeons failing to jump on the first sign that a patient might have a leak in the sutures rerouting the stomach and intestines.
- Surgeons who fail to realize how easy it is for these patients to develop life-threatening small bowel obstruction, even months or years after the surgery.
Death can occur to these patients from blood clot in the lungs (pulmonary embolism), leak causing uncontrollable abdominal infection, and obstruction of the intestine causing gangrene (death of tissue). Leak and intestinal obstruction are the two most common causes of death after gastric bypass surgery. A medical malpractice lawsuit can be justified if the surgeon or hospital staff failed to follow appropriate standards of practice.
This diagram shows a typical gastric bypass surgery called Roux-en-Y. Notice that most of the stomach is stapled off and disconnected from the patient’s feeding system. Note also how a large section of small intestine at the lower end of the stomach, on the left of the diagram, is also disconnected from the feeding system.
This is very serious surgery, with a high risk for medical malpractice, and patients need to take it very seriously. Investigate your surgeon. Find out his experience and current volume of cases. Make sure he does not crowd too many cases into one day. Make sure he has adequate experience with the exact type of surgery proposed for you. Ask him if he tracks his complication rate and to give you details: such as percentage of patient deaths, percentage of re-operations, percentage of failures to lose significant weight. Read more…
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