Atlee Hall Resolves Medical Malpractice Case Involving Hernia Repair Surgery

Written by Atlee Hall

The Lancaster medical malpractice lawyers with Atlee Hall recently resolved a case involving the death of a 63-year-old man following laparoscopic hernia repair surgery.

During the hernia repair surgery, the defendant surgeon inadvertently nicked the patient’s bowel and did not recognize it prior to the conclusion of the surgery. Although he initially seemed to do well postoperatively, by the next day, the patient developed acute shortness of breath and chest pain. He was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit, where he came under the care of a critical care physician. In the ICU, the patient’s breathing difficulty persisted, and the critical care physician determined that he needed to be intubated. Rather than perform the intubation herself, however, the critical care physician allowed an inexperienced nurse practitioner to do it. The nurse practitioner intubated the patient’s esophagus, and he aspirated stomach contents into his lungs, which caused aspiration pneumonia.

Over the course of the rest of the day, the patient developed increasing intra-abdominal pressures. Elevated intra-abdominal pressures can be caused by several factors, including an infection in the abdomen. As intra-abdominal pressure increases, it begins to squeeze organs and blood vessels in the abdomen. Eventually, it leads to abdominal compartment syndrome, which can cut off blood supply and kill the organs. Abdominal compartment syndrome is a medical emergency, and the abdominal pressure must be released through surgery.

The defendant critical care physician testified that she was very concerned that the patient’s increasing intra-abdominal pressures were due to an injury that had occurred during the surgery the previous day. She testified that she asked the ICU nurses to page the defendant surgeon multiple times for a consult, but he never responded. Eventually, the ICU nurses were able to contact the defendant surgeon’s on-call partner, who evaluated the patient and took him in for emergency surgery.

Ultimately, it was discovered that there was a small hole in the patient’s bowel, which was leaking contents into his abdomen. The defendant surgeon’s partner testified that this hole was more than likely caused during the surgery performed the previous day. The hole in the patient’s small bowel was repaired, but he continued to be very unstable and ultimately passed away the following day.  

Through deposition testimony and our expert reports, we were able to show that both defendants were negligent and that their actions caused the patient’s death.