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Surgery for removal of the gallbladder (also known as cholecystectomy) is usually undertaken by way of keyhole surgery (laparoscopy). Although by and large surgeons who perform this procedure are competent at it, it is still a procedure which goes wrong from time to time, and sometimes this may give rise to a claim for negligent treatment.
The Clinical Negligence Team has dealt with a large number of claims arising from laparoscopic cholecystectomy, and are experienced and expert in advising where there has been negligence, and in maximising the damages to which you are entitled.
Gallbladder surgery usually involves the removal of the gallbladder because gallstones have developed and are causing symptoms. Gallstones may become trapped in a duct, and cause the gallbladder to become inflamed, which will cause pain and sometimes jaundice (yellowing of the skin).
Gallbladder removal may be performed as an open procedure (laparotomy) whereby a large incision will be made in the abdomen, but 90% of procedures are performed laparoscopically (by way of keyhole surgery) where a tiny camera and small surgical instruments are inserted through small incisions in the abdomen, and the surgery is effectively performed remotely.
There are a number of possible complications to gallbladder removal. The most serious one is injury to the bile duct, which occurs in about 1 in 500 cases. The procedure to remove the gallbladder involves clipping the cystic duct and cystic artery, after which the gall bladder can be peeled off the liver bed. Sometimes during this process the bile duct or hepatic duct may be injured unintentionally, by incision, or by diathermy, leading to bile leakage and the need for further surgery. If the damage is detected during the operation, it may be repaired immediately, but sometimes it can occur without being detected, leading to a major bile leak after the surgery, and if left undetected for too long, peritonitis can set in, which can be extremely dangerous, and may require an extended stay in intensive care, and could even be fatal if left untreated.
Damage can also occur to the hepatic duct, which will also require immediate repair if possible.
Sometimes injury to the intestine, bowel or major blood vessels may occur, which can have serious consequences.
All such injuries are likely to have a better outcome if detected immediately and repaired. If such injuries are left undiagnosed and untreated, they will usually result either in dangerous internal bleeding (if a blood vessel has been damaged) or peritonitis from the bile leak or from a bowel leak.
You are likely to have a viable claim in a number of circumstances:
Each case must be considered on its own facts and with the benefit of specialist advice from experienced surgeons and lawyers who understand the issues in cases involving gallbladder surgery.
The amount of compensation awarded in cases of injury arising from gallbladder surgery does vary from case to case. Damages will be awarded for your pain and suffering and for any loss of earnings you suffer, or care which you might need. There may also be a risk of your developing complications in the future, because of what has gone wrong. Common examples are the possibility of strictures developing, and the risk of ascending cholangitis; if there is a significant risk of such complications arising in the future you will be compensated for that risk. See below for examples of settlements which we have obtained for previous clients.
A client, represented by Tracy Norris-Evans, Partner in the Clinical Negligence Team, received compensation of £250,000 after suffering a major bile duct injury due to negligence during gallbladder surgery. This is classified as a Strasberg E1 injury with a Bismuth type 1 stricture. As a result of the negligent gallbladder surgery our client has been left with a 15 cm long upper abdominal scar and requires lifelong monitoring for possible complications which could lead to her requiring further surgery. She suffered post-traumatic stress disorder. She now requires long-term surgical follow up with repeated blood testing and ultrasound scanning to monitor the development of the bile duct stricture. She has a long-term risk of developing a stricture of her main biliary tree which may require endoscopic dilation by ERCP or a percutaneous transhepatic cholangiography (PTC) and if these techniques fail, major biliary reconstruction. She also has a lifetime risk of developing an incisional hernia in the order of approximately 5%. She is also at risk of developing complications from adhesions such as small bowel obstruction of approximately 5%, with a 2% risk that abdominal surgery will be needed for the adhesions. She received compensation of £250,000 for her pain and suffering and financial losses, including loss of earnings.