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Duct Damaged During Gallbladder Removal

Duct Damaged During Gallbladder Removal

If you sustained internal damage while having your gallbladder removed and doctors failed to notice, you could be entitled to compensation for the injuries you have wrongfully endured. Please get in touch with us at Glynns Solicitors to find out more.

Gallbladder removal

The gallbladder is a small sac located between the liver and the small intestine. Its function is to store bile, a substance which helps the body to break down food. Bile is made in the liver, after which is passes through the bile duct and into the small intestine where food is broken down. The gallbladder acts as a reservoir, holding bile until it is needed.

However, it is perfectly possible to live without a gallbladder. Therefore if someone is experiencing problems with their gallbladder, the best option may be to have it surgically removed.

The main issue relating to the gallbladder is the development of gallstones. Gallstones are when calcium, cholesterol and salt clump together to create small masses. These may not cause any problems, but if the stones become stuck in the bile duct they can be excruciatingly painful. If someone is experiencing recurrent episodes of pain known medically as biliary colic one option is to have the gallbladder surgically removed.

Risks of gallbladder removal operation

The surgical removal of the gallbladder is called a cholecystectomy. Normally it is done via keyhole surgery, and so is called laparoscopic cholecystectomy. All surgical procedures have risks, and the removal of the gallbladder is no exception.

According to the NHS Choices website, the potential complications of a laparoscopic cholecystectomy are:

  • Bleeding
  • Bile leakage
  • Injury to the bile duct
  • Injury to the intestine, bowel and blood vessels
  • Deep vein thrombosis
  • Reacting badly to the general anaesthetic
  • Post-cholecystectomy syndrome which causes similar symptoms to having gallstones

Repairing internal damage

If any internal damage is sustained during the procedure, it must be recognised and repaired before the close of the operation or at the very least shortly afterwards. Injury to the bile duct, intestine, bowel and blood vessels are all risk factors because they all lie very close to the gallbladder. This means it can be difficult to avoiding nicking or puncturing the surrounding structures.

If the surgeon does accidentally cause internal damage, it is not necessarily negligent. Such complications are an accepted risk and cannot always be avoided. A patient does have to be told about these potential complications before signing the consent form (which happens before the procedure) or they have not legally agreed to undergo the operation. If you think you were not told about the complications, there could be grounds for a negligence claim due to the lack of consent.

Additionally if internal damage does occur but the injury is not diagnosed and repaired, the surgeon could be considered negligent.

Damaged bile duct

The bile duct is especially vulnerable to harm during the removal of the gallbladder. The gallbladder is actually attached to the bile duct, so before the gallbladder is removed the duct is clipped to stop any bile from leaking out. During this process, and indeed during the whole procedure, the bile duct is vulnerable to being cut, nicked or burned. Around one in every 500 patients will experience this complication.

Failure to notice damaged bile duct

If it is injured but the problem is not noticed, bile will leak out of the duct and into the abdomen. This can cause serious issues, as the bile will irritate the lining of the abdomen called the peritoneum. The peritoneum can become infected (called peritonitis), a serious illness that can make a patient critically unwell. It is also possible for the bile to work its ways into the bloodstream, something which will lead to jaundice where bilirubin builds up in the bloodstream, causing yellow skin and eyes.

Jaundice may be one of the later signs of a damaged bile duct. The early symptoms usually relate to the bile in the abdomen causing pain and infection. These symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Abdominal pain
  • A swollen, tender abdomen
  • Shivering and chills

A patient will develop these symptoms shortly after coming round from the general anaesthetic. The onset of such symptoms should prompt medical practitioners to organise tests to check whether the bile duct is leaking, or to send the patient straight to theatre for exploratory surgery. Either way, action is required quickly to avoid serious complications such as peritonitis and jaundice.

Unbelievably there are times when a patient displays symptoms indicative of bile duct damage, yet they are still discharged from hospital. This standard of care is not acceptable. If a patient develops problems after having their gallbladder removed, he/she must remain in hospital until the issue is resolved. Because of the dangers of bile duct damage, steps must be taken immediately to find out and treat the underlying cause.

Gallbladder removal damage and medical negligence

Therefore while it may not be negligent to damage the bile duct or other internal structure during surgery, it may be negligent if:

  • Medical practitioners do not realise injury has occurred within a reasonable amount of time either during surgery or shortly afterwards
  • Medical practitioners discharged a patient home, rather than investigated their symptoms
  • Medical practitioners do not repair the damage on an emergency basis
  • The injury occurs because of the surgeon's lack of skill and expertise
  • A patient is not properly consented for the procedure

If you suffered complications following a gallbladder removal that were not properly investigated, or that were caused by medical error, you need to speak to a solicitor. There could be a case of medical negligence.

Medical negligence lawyers

If you became critically unwell after undergoing gallbladder surgery and you believe medical error was to blame, contact a medical negligence lawyer to find out whether you are entitled to pursue a claim. Anyone who is wrongfully harmed as a result of substandard medical care is legally eligible to take legal action against those at fault, a process which will end with the victim being properly compensated for their damages.

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