Written by attorney Edward Joel Lake

Failure to Diagnose and Prevent Bowel Obstruction

When a doctor fails to diagnose a medical condition, like a bowel obstruction, it can sometimes lead to serious complications. Although not every diagnostic error will result in legal action against the provider, there are circumstances that may warrant legal action. An example is when medical negligence causes the diagnostic error, resulting in serious or life-threatening injuries.

When a Doctor Fails to Diagnose a Bowel Obstruction

If the small or large intestine becomes partially or completely blocked, the patient can experience a variety of problems. An accurate diagnosis is important so it can be properly treated, which most times must take place in a hospital.

Although scar tissue, tumors or other obstructions in the area may cause bowel obstruction, it may also occur after abdominal surgery. This condition is called ileus and isn’t actually caused by a blockage but still prevents the intestines from functioning properly. Doctors typically look for signs of this complication when a patient has undergone a stomach operation.

Whatever the cause, a bowel obstruction can generally be detected through a CT scan or X-ray. The stomach itself might also be tender and swollen. Failure to diagnose could occur if the doctor doesn’t recognize symptoms and order additional testing if another reasonable physician would take those actions. It could also be a result of reading the results incorrectly. Since symptoms tend to be fairly common when someone has a bowel obstruction, mistaking them for something else might be considered negligence.

Signs that may indicate an obstruction is the problem include:

· severe cramping;

· bloating;

· vomiting;

· constipation(when completely blocked); and/or

· diarrhea (when partially blocked).

Complications of a Bowel Obstruction

An infection is one of the complications of a bowel obstruction. This can occur in the cavity of the abdomen. Without immediate and proper treatment, it could spread and become life-threatening.

The obstruction may even cut off blood supply to the intestines, which can result in tissue death. This can lead to the intestinal wall tearing, increasing the risk of infection. Other complications can include jaundice and dehydration.

If a bowel obstruction isn’t detected in a newborn, it can result in lung and blood infections. These are especially life-threatening.

Treating a Bowel Obstruction

In most circumstances, treatment will include fluids through an IV line. To relieve the pressure and pain, a nasogastric tube may be placed through the patient’s nose. This tube goes into the stomach, removing gas and fluid, which are some of the causes of discomfort.

Blockages may need to be opened up by giving the patient an enema. But in some cases it could require a stent placed in the area where it’s blocked. If the intestine is completely blocked, the patient may need surgery.

An accurate diagnosis is obviously important. When a doctor has failed to provide it, patients may seek legal action if they’ve experienced damages. Gacovino, Lake & Associates can help. Call us at 800-246-4878 to set up an appointment with an attorney.

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