When it is time for a second opinion after a surgical mistake or complication

At Painter Law Firm, in Houston, Texas we are focused on medical malpractice cases. Every day of the week, we speak with patients and family members about helping them investigate and pursue lawsuits against a hospital, doctor, surgeon, or healthcare provider whose medical mistakes and negligence caused serious injuries.

A common topic that comes up in these conversations—particularly in bariatric weight loss surgery cases—is that the original surgeons cannot fix the problems caused by the surgery or procedure that they performed.

In the process of accepting representation of a client, we ask detailed questions to learn what happened and when. When was the surgery? In the context of bariatric surgery, we ask when did the pain, nausea and vomiting start? How long did it last? When did you inform the surgeon? What did the surgeon say and do?

I have noticed a trend in these client conversations. When patients raise problems that they are encountering after surgery, some surgeons hope for the best and are slow to admit that something may have gone wrong. Even setting aside an admission of making a mistake, some surgeons are very slow to acknowledge that their patients are experiencing any complications that are out of the ordinary.

In medicine and healthcare, a complication is something that can happen even with good care. In other words, complications may be unpreventable by the healthcare providers. In many cases, getting an infection after a surgery, or even having a bowel perforation or nick during surgery, are considered complications.

On the other hand, a mistake is something that the surgeon did or did not do that does not meet the standard of care. For example, in a weight loss surgery, if a surgeon over-tightens the sutures such that food and liquids cannot pass through the gastrointestinal tract, it is a mistake that causes painful and dangerous gastric outlet obstruction.

Whether a patient is suffering from a complication or mistake, a surgeon needs to take notice and address the problem. While a complication is not caused by the surgeon’s negligence, the failure to recognize and treat it may be negligence and can cause the patient further harm. Similarly, when a surgeon ignores and does not treat a surgical mistake, it is a new act of medical negligence.

Thinking back on the bariatric surgery malpractice cases that I have handled against various surgeons, there are some surgeons who seem to do an adequate job—as long as there are no complications or mistakes to deal with. They typically do a high volume of very similar cases every day. Most of them turn out fine, but when something goes wrong, they seem to be at a loss at what to do.

In the many surgical malpractice cases that I have handled, our law firm hires medical experts to review the medical records and provide opinions about what happened. As it turns out, there are surgeons who perform mainly primary surgery (the initial surgery for patients) and those who focus on corrective surgery (fixing the mistakes or complications of other surgeons).

This all leads to the question of when is it time for a patient to seek help from a new surgeon, when there is a suspicion of a surgical complication or mistake? Here are some factors to consider.

First, in many cases, corrective surgical experts believe that patient outcomes are better if the mistake or complication is handled sooner rather than later. This means taking the patient back to the operating room to find out what is wrong and fix it. A stomach or intestinal leak can cause an infection that can turn into deadly sepsis if it is not fixed quickly.

Second, there are some things to look for from your original surgeon that signal it is time for a second opinion from a new surgeon.

∙ The surgeon will not listen to or answer your question.

∙ The surgeon gets defensive when you ask if something went wrong in the operating room.

∙ The surgeon shifts blame, saying things like you did not follow instructions or there was something wrong or unusual with your body.

∙ The surgeon reminds you that you signed a consent form and comments that he told you that the surgery might not work.

∙ The surgeon does not want to order lab work or diagnostic imaging, or consult with a specialist.

∙ The surgeon talks over your head with complex terms.

∙ The surgeon seems to have lost confidence or comments that she does not know what is wrong.

∙ You cannot get anyone to return your call at the surgeon’s office.

∙ You get the feeling that the surgeon no longer wants you as a patient.

We are here to help

If you or a loved one has been seriously injured from medical or surgical malpractice, call Painter Law Firm, in Houston, Texas, at 281-580-8800, for a free consultation about your potential case.


Robert Painter is an attorney at Painter Law Firm PLLC, in Houston, Texas. He files medical malpractice and wrongful death lawsuits against doctors, surgeons, hospitals, and other healthcare providers, on behalf of patients and their family members. In 2017, H Texas magazine recognized him as one of Houston’s top lawyers.

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.