$2.5 Million Settlement for Patient’s Death Following Perforated Intestine

A Loyola University Medical Center patient suffered brain damage after undergoing two separate surgeries during the same hospital admission. The second surgery was required to fix surgical errors made during her initial surgery. The woman’s surviving family sued the Chicago hospital for its surgical negligence and received a $2.5 million settlement.

The forty-five year-old decedent presented to Loyola University Medical Center to undergo a laparoscopic procedure to remove dense adhesions in her pelvic region. Everything appeared to go well during the surgery and the decedent was taken to the post-op care area and then transferred to the floor for additional post-operative care and monitoring.

However, she continued to complain of severe abdominal pain, above and beyond what one would expect following this type of surgery. Her pain continued despite the high levels of post-operative pain medications she was given. In addition, the decedent developed shortness of breath and began to have an increased heart rate. Together, these various symptoms indicated that perhaps something was wrong.

And while the decedent’s medical team did respond to these symptoms by ordering various tests, they failed to make a timely diagnosis of the problem – a perforated intestine. During the surgical procedure, the gynecologist performing the surgery had inadvertently cut into her intestine. Not only did the surgical team fail to recognize this problem during the actual procedure, but failed to identify the problem for several days.

Instead of ruling out organ perforation, one of the better known complications of surgery, the hospital staff first considered other possibilities to explain the decedent’s abnormal symptoms. An abdominal scan was ordered to determine the cause of her abdominal pain, which showed a possible bowel obstruction and an increased amount of fluid in her abdominal region. In addition, her lungs were examined to determine whether her shortness of breath was being caused by a pulmonary embolism.

Yet no tests were initially run to determine whether her intestines had been perforated during the surgical procedure. It wasn’t until the decedent’s blood pressure dropped to dangerously low levels that the attending physician elected to get a surgical consult. The surgeon immediately determined that she had a hole in both her large and small intestines. The surgeon recommended that she undergo an additional surgery to repair the damage done during her initial surgery.

However, by this time the decedent was in critical medical condition, the strain of the intestinal damage was wearing on her. Before the Loyola staff was able to administer the anesthesia for her second surgery, she suffered a heart attack. The cardiac arrest left the decedent with severe brain damage. Not only was she unable to maintain any meaningful communication, but her brain function was so diminished that she was unable to breathe on her own. The decedent was placed on a ventilator and declared brain dead. After considering the hopelessness of her recovery, her parents and siblings elected to remove her from the ventilator and allow her to pass away.

Her family then brought the Cook County wrongful death lawsuit against Loyola University Medical Center, not only for its surgical negligence, but also for its failure to timely diagnose the decedent’s intestinal perforations. The complaint alleged that had the Loyola staff diagnosed the cause for her worsening condition in a timely manner that she would not have suffered a cardiac arrest and subsequent brain damage. Rather than going to trial, the hospital elected to settle with the decedent’s estate for $2.5 million.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Illinois surgical error lawsuits for individuals and families for more than 35 years in and around Chicago, Cook County, and surrounding areas, including Oak Forest, Calumet City, Chicago Heights, and Mount Prospect.

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