Posted: July 1, 2019

A bowel or colon perforation is a serious surgical complication that can result in lifelong pain and suffering or death if not addressed immediately. Bowel perforation is a risk with some surgical procedures including colonoscopy, laparoscopic procedures, hysterectomy, appendectomy, and other abdominal operations. It can also occur spontaneously due to a ruptured diverticulum, Crohn’s disease, or another underlying intestinal problem. However, bowel perforation may also occur due to medical malpractice such as surgical error or a delay in diagnosing and treating a perforated intestine.

Symptoms of Bowel Perforation

Bowel perforation is often marked by severe abdominal pain. This pain may be joined by abdominal protrusion, hardening, or both. If the perforation is in the small intestine, discomfort may be sudden. Pain from holes in the larger bowel is often more gradual.

In addition to intense abdominal pain, symptoms of bowel perforation that should be brought to the attention of a trusted medical provider include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Chills
  • Fever

If promptly diagnosed, a hole or tear can be repaired or the damaged portion of an intestine removed before causing any further injuries.

Risks of Bowel Perforation

When an intestine has a hole in it, is torn, perforated or nicked, the bowel contents such as stomach acid, bile, partially digested food, feces, and bacteria can leak into the abdominal area. This, in turn, increases risks for:

  • Blood infection
  • Sepsis
  • Peritonitis
  • Organ failure
  • Death

When surgical error or a delayed diagnosis cause a hole in the bowel or colon, it is important that it is diagnosed and treated as soon as possible to prevent damage to other organs.

Treatment Options for Bowel Perforation

Most often, surgery will be needed to fix a bowel or colon perforation. The goal of surgery is to both close the hole and remove leaked substances from the abdominal cavity. In some cases, a colostomy or ileostomy will need to be performed. These procedures involve removing portions of the intestines and diverting their contents into a bag attached to your abdominal wall.

Surgery to repair a perforated bowel may be less successful in smokers, heavy drinkers, or people with certain medical conditions such as kidney failure, type 2 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis. Patients with these conditions may face “wound failure” in which the hole cannot be repaired. These patients often end up with a permanent colostomy or ileostomy bag.

Bowel Perforation Lawsuits

If your bowel perforation was the result of medical malpractice, you may have an option to seek compensation for medical expenses and related damages. Please call or email us for a free review of your case by one of our medical malpractice lawyers.

Kline & Specter has more than 40 attorneys, five of whom are also medical doctors, the most doctor/lawyers of any firm in the United States. We have offices in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and New York. For cases outside those states, Kline & Specter works with local attorneys in each state as applicable.