Failure to Diagnose and Prevent Bowel Obstruction

Diagnostic errors are not uncommon. But in most cases they don’t cause serious harm. However, for some patients it could turn a treatable condition into a life-threatening one. An example may be failure to diagnose an obstructed bowel. Learn how this might allow the patient to file a medical malpractice claim.

Overview of Bowel Obstruction and How It Could Be Diagnosed

This condition occurs when the small or large intestine is blocked, partially or completely. As a result, it prevents gas, food and fluids from moving through the intestines.

Getting an accurate obstructed bowel diagnosis is important because it could lead to a variety of serious complications such as: 

  • dehydration;
  • infection;
  • jaundice; and
  • perforation of the intestines. 

A diagnosis usually starts with a description of the symptoms. 

The most common symptoms of a blocked bowl are: 

  • severe pain;
  • cramping;
  • vomiting;
  • constipation;
  • diarrhea (when partially blocked); and
  • distention (swelling of the abdominal region). 

It can usually be confirmed through an x-ray or CT scan. Most bowel obstructions are treated in the hospital. The patient is given fluids and medication through an IV. A small tube may be placed through the nose into the stomach to remove gas/fluids and relieve the pressure and pain. Treatment for a partial blockage could include administering an enema or opening the intestine through stents. A complete blockage may require surgery to remove it.

Failure to Diagnose Obstructed Bowel Could Lead to Malpractice Lawsuit

First, it’s important to consider some of the potential causes of a bowel obstruction to learn if a doctor could have prevented it and/or should have detected it. For instance, cancer (such as ovarian) puts the patient at risk of this condition because of the tumor or scar tissue from surgery.

Examples of other causes can include narrowing/twisting of the intestines, hernia, Crohn’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease and diverticulitis (inflammation, irritation of small sacs that form in the colon). A doctor who fails to diagnose these conditions could also fail to diagnose a bowel obstruction.

When it comes to diagnostic errors of any kind, there are key elements that must be established in order to pursue a medical malpractice claim. The first is the easiest to demonstrate, which is that a relationship existed between the doctor and patient. This is the case whenever someone is receiving medical care from a physician.

The second element is that the doctor failed to provide care and/or treatment in a reasonable manner expected of other professionals. Oftentimes this standard of care is determined by considering what another physician in a similar set of circumstances would have done – e.g., ordered tests, diagnosed the condition, etc.

Let’s say the patient described experiencing almost all of the common symptoms of a bowel obstruction. Another doctor may have conducted further testing based on the patient’s symptoms. But if he fails to order those tests or conduct any additional evaluation to determine the cause of the symptoms, it could be considered negligence.

The last element is showing the patient experienced significant injury. A diagnostic error in itself doesn’t mean the patient suffered physical harm. For instance, the patient may receive an accurate diagnosis on a second opinion.

That doctor may successfully treat the patient with no health repercussions. There likely wouldn’t be a case against the initial doctor who missed the diagnosis because the patient didn’t suffer any damages.

However, if a bowel obstruction wasn’t diagnosed and it results in serious or fatal complications, the patient may file a claim against the doctor.

Get Legal Help with Medical Malpractice Cases

Medical malpractice cases stemming from diagnostic errors can be complicated and challenging. The best thing a victim can do is seek legal advice. An attorney at Gacovino, Lake & Associates will evaluate the circumstances to determine if there is a valid claim that can be made against the doctor. Set up your appointment online, or call us at 800-550-0000.

Related Posts