Chicago Bile Duct Injury and Laparoscopic Surgical Injury Attorney
Bile ducts are tubes that carry bile from the liver. Sometimes, gallbladder surgery damages the bile ducts. The gallbladder is a small sac that stores bile, a greenish fluid emanating from your liver. The body releases the bile from the gallbladder into the small intestine to help break down food.
If gallstones form in the gallbladder, you can suffer from pain, swelling, and infection. When this happens, doctors schedule surgery—usually laparoscopic cholecystectomy—to remove the gallbladder using small cuts in the abdomen. During this surgery, the surgical cuts can damage the bile ducts.
If the doctor cuts the bile ducts or otherwise damages them during gallbladder surgery, the bile could leak into your abdomen, or the damage could block the flow of bile from the liver. These injuries are often painful and can be deadly if doctors do not treat them.
If you suffered a bile duct injury or lost a loved one because of the gallbladder and/or bile duct surgeries and injuries, contact a Chicago gallbladder and bile duct attorney at Zayed Law Offices.
Table of Contents
Causes of Bile Duct Injuries
In most cases, a bile duct injury happens during gallbladder surgery. If the doctor cannot see the bile duct clearly, they could accidentally cut or burn it. Factors that might hinder a doctor’s sight include bleeding, scarring, swelling, or if the area is abnormal, which could happen because of previous surgeries.
Doctors often catch bile duct injuries during gallbladder surgery and repair them.
However, if the doctor overlooks an issue, you might suffer:
- Fever and/or chills.
- Abdominal pain.
- Swelling in the abdominal area.
- Nausea and/or vomiting.
- Jaundice (the whites of your eyes and your skin turn yellow).
- General discomfort.
Doctors only find about 10 to 30 percent of bile duct injuries during gallbladder surgery. The doctor can and should do a test called an intraoperative cholangiography during the surgery to ensure the bile is flowing correctly. To complete the test, the doctor injects a dye into the bile ducts so they can see it flowing on an X-ray image.
Diagnosing a Bile Duct Injury
If the doctor did not find a bile duct injury during gallbladder surgery, they could diagnose the condition with several tests, including:
- Transabdominal ultrasound.
- Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (light, flexible scope the doctor inserts into the upper part of your digestive system).
- Percutaneous transhepatic cholangiography (uses dye to follow the bile flow).
- Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRI of the area).
If the doctor finds you have a bile duct injury, they must re-open you to repair the bile duct if they cannot repair it with a scope.
While some bleeding is normal during surgery, if the doctor does not stop heavier bleeding by clamping the problem spot off, you could end up with internal bleeding. Some doctors try to “cover it up” instead of calling a vascular surgeon to help repair the bleeder. Closing you up before the doctor stops the bleeding could lead to complications that require yet another surgery to repair the bleeding.
Bile Duct Malpractice Lawsuits
When should you consider taking legal action in the form of medical malpractice if a doctor damages your bile duct? If the doctor misses the damage to the bile duct and you become ill, or if you lose a loved one because of a leaky bile duct, you should contact a bile duct surgery attorney.
The issue with gallbladder surgery is that doctors have different skill levels. While gallbladder surgery is a common procedure, if a doctor does not have a lot of experience, they could cause pain, suffering, and other damages by not noticing the cut bile duct.
A leaky bile duct could cause cholangitis, strictures, pancreatitis, sepsis, and other issues. If the bile duct is not repaired and leaks into your abdomen, it could cause death. The only way to repair the bile duct is for you to have another surgery, which means more short-term pain, suffering, and the risk of going under anesthesia again.
Recovering Damages After a Laparoscopic Surgical Injury
Once you retain a bile duct injury attorney, the firm will investigate your case to determine whether the surgeon’s actions or inactions were negligent. If the surgeon or another medical professional was negligent, you could recover damages after laparoscopic surgery, including economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages have a monetary value. Most people entitled to damages collect economic damages. Non-economic damages do not have a monetary value. However, the court only orders a defendant to pay non-economic damages if you suffer long-term or permanent disabilities caused by your injuries or lose a loved one because of the surgery.
Economic damages include medical expenses, lost wages, loss of future earning capacity, and, in the event of a death, burial and funeral expenses, cremation expenses, and certain probate court expenses or probate attorneys’ fees and costs.
Non-economic damages include pain and suffering (including emotional distress), loss of companionship, loss of consortium, and inconvenience.
Suppose the damage to the bile duct and the subsequent surgery cause additional issues, such as excessive scarring or lost use of bodily function. In that case, you could also receive additional compensation.
The Known Risk Defense
The doctors’ attorneys will argue that you took a known risk in having gallbladder surgery. However, this is not always true. If a doctor’s reasonable care could have prevented the injury, you might have a malpractice lawsuit. Thus, even though a doctor states that you signed a release form for known risks, always contact a medical malpractice attorney as soon as you learn that laparoscopic surgery resulted in excessive bleeding or a damaged bile duct.
Doctors may also try to claim that things weren’t in the right place (unusual anatomy) or that you were too large for them to see the proper placement of the bile duct and the gallbladder. However, these are also common excuses for negligence, as the doctor should have taken precautions to determine the bile flow.