Intestinal obstruction is a blockage of the small intestine (small bowel) or colon. Food and liquids are prevented from passing through. When not diagnosed and treated promptly, the patient can suffer a catastrophic loss of part of their intestines which can lead to perforation of the intestine, severe infection, shock and even death. Misdiagnosis of small bowel obstruction is a particularly high-risk situation where death can result and can amount to medical malpractice.
This was a patient who had had weight loss surgery 18 months previously, and the surgeon failed to recognize that sudden onset of severe stomach pain in a gastric bypass patient can mean that the intestine has twisted itself against the bands of internal adhesions (scar tissue) that always form after any abdominal surgery. The loss of blood supply to a section of the intestine causes that part of the intestine to die.
Another case of small bowel obstruction handled by the Malone firm involved a young man who had adhesions in his abdomen from a car accident a few years previously. He too developed sudden intense stomach pain, and the doctors sat on it for too long until he died. This case also featured a misinterpretation of the CT scan.
Besides scar tissue in the belly, intestinal obstruction can be caused by many other conditions, including hernias and cancerous tumors. Intestinal obstruction can result in an array of uncomfortable signs and symptoms, including abdominal pain and swelling, nausea, and vomiting.
See our patient safety tips for preventing misdiagnosis.
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