Abdominal pain and medical malpractice

Severe abdominal pain can be a medical emergency and requires careful evaluation and diagnosis by a physician. Generally, this condition is called acute abdomen. One of the big challenges for doctors, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners handling acute abdomen patients is figuring out which of the many potential causes may be causing the patient’s symptoms.

All doctors are taught in medical school an important technique called the differential diagnosis process. The differential diagnosis technique is the standard of care. Based on collecting patient history and physical assessment, doctors will relate a list of potential causes of the patient’s signs, symptoms, and condition. This is called the differential diagnosis list.

Armed with the differential diagnosis list in hand, the standard of care requires the physician to perform additional assessments or order diagnostic testing, such as radiology scans or lab work, to rule in or rule out each item on the list. Because patient safety is foremost in the differential diagnosis process, the standard of care requires the doctor to begin with the most life-threatening condition on the list.

In acute abdomen cases (in some situations called surgical abdomen cases), the differential diagnosis list is lengthy. Conditions that may be in the list include appendicitis, cholecystitis (gallbladder disease), pancreatitis, intestinal ischemia (lack of blood flow and oxygenation to the intestines), diverticulitis (inflammation in the wall of the large intestine), twisted bowel or stomach (volvulus), obstructed bowel, kidney stones, ruptured spleen, abdominal aortic aneurysm, cancer, and many others.

We’ve seen a common problem in several acute abdomen medical malpractice cases that we’ve handled that Painter Law Firm where a patient was severely injured after a doctor jumped to a conclusion, rather than following the differential diagnosis process.

That’s what happened to a client of ours who went to a Conroe, Texas hospital with abdominal pain. She had recently broken her arm after a bicycle accident and was taking painkillers. Rather than doing a full workup of this patient’s acute abdominal pain, a surgeon and hospitalist (a hospital-based internal medicine physician) both chalked up her symptoms to constipation caused by her narcotic pain medications.

Fortunately, she managed to get transferred to a different hospital in Cypress, Texas, where a surgeon did a proper workup. He took her to the operating room, where he found multiple instances of diverticulitis. The pouches in the intestines are called diverticula. When they get inflamed or infected, it causes diverticulitis.

Although diverticulitis is sometimes a relatively minor situation, it can also be severe, causing a massive infection. That’s what happened with our client. Her surgeon told her that if had been one more day before she got to him, she would’ve probably died.

If you’ve been seriously injured because of poor hospital or physician care in Texas, then contact a top-rated experienced Houston, Texas medical malpractice lawyer for a free consultation about your potential case.

Robert Painter
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Robert Painter

Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm Medical Malpractice Attorneys in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas. Contact him for a free consultation and strategy session by calling 281-580-8800 or emailing him right now.