In January of this year, a woman in her 50s called Painter Law Firm to ask this question: Can I sue my bariatric surgeon? After hearing her story, we told her that the answer is “yes.”
This Texas woman’s story began about 20 years ago when she went to a bariatric weight loss surgeon for help in maintaining a healthy weight. Despite working hard to control her diet and exercise, she just couldn’t keep the excess weight off. She had a lap band surgery that delivered good results for about 15 years, but then she started gaining weight again no matter how hard she dieted.
Lap bands and gastric bands
Lap bands, or gastric bands, are adjustable devices that go around the stomach to restrict the volume. The idea behind them is that with less volume of food in the stomach, patients will eat less. Over time, lap bands may become less effective. Sometimes they get loose and attach to adjacent organs.
The woman went to see a different bariatric surgeon to talk about her lap band and weight gain. The surgeon recommended a revision procedure, which would really be two separate surgeries in one visit to the operating room:
• In the first surgery, the surgeon removed the lap band.
• In the second surgery, the surgeon did a Roux-en-Y gastric bypass. In this procedure, the surgeon cuts and reroutes a segment of the small intestine to reroute the gastrointestinal tract. The goal of this type of weight loss surgery is to reduce the absorption of food and calories.
Botched surgical care
After the revision surgery, the patient was sent to a medical-surgical floor for observation. The only problem was there wasn’t much observation going on by nurses or physicians.
Overnight, the woman’s lab work and vital signs showed numerous signs that she had an infection and a high risk of sepsis. No one acted on this until the next morning when a new shift of physicians and nurses came to work at the hospital.
When a resident physician saw the patient, she noticed and documented in the medical record that an intravenous (IV) line had become disconnected and was pouring IV fluid onto the bed. IV fluids are important after a major abdominal surgery where there’s bleeding. IV fluids help ensure there’s enough blood volume to perfuse the tissues and vital organs.
The physicians and surgeons then began working up the abnormal labs and vital signs. Out of concern that there might be a problem with the surgical site, her surgeon decided to take her back to the operating room.
One of the anastomosis sites—the location where the small intestine was surgically reconnected–was leaking. Her bowel contents were leaking into her abdominal cavity. This explained the patient’s severe pain, fever, abnormal bloodwork, and erratic vital signs.
She faced a prolonged hospitalization with multiple take-back surgeries to address complications of the ongoing and evolving complications of the surgery. Ultimately, her surgeon had to remove a large segment of her bowel, which left her with serious permanent injuries, including nausea, vomiting, and malnutrition.
Pre-suit settlement win
Less than six months after this unfortunate woman called Painter Law Firm, we were able to secure a $1,700,000 settlement to help provide for her extra medical needs.
So, back to the question. Yes, you can sue a bariatric surgeon if there was a technical error during the surgery or if there was a failure to monitor, diagnose, and treat complications in the postoperative. But, there may be additional responsible parties other than simply the surgeon. If the hospital nursing staff isn’t properly monitoring a patient and reporting to a surgeon or doctor the clinically significant changes in the patient’s baseline, then the hospital can also be sued.
If you’ve been seriously injured because of poor bariatric weight loss surgery or hospital care in Texas, then contact a top-rated, experienced Texas medical malpractice lawyer for a free consultation about your potential case.