Roux-en-y gastric bypass surgery has become commonplace. Surgeons in the United States performed over 252,000 gastric bypass operations in 2019 (less in 2020 with COVID).
In many cases, gastric bypass surgery is the best solution for patients with hard-to-control obesity. But too many doctors commit malpractice by performing this surgery who never should receive the procedure or by mistakes made during the surgery.
- Sample gastric bypass lawsuit in Towson, Maryland
At least some studies have shown that gastric bypass surgery provides generally good outcomes in bringing about weight loss and eliminating type 2 diabetes. There is also no question the technology to perform gastric bypass surgery is helping to eliminate risk and decrease recovery times from the procedure.
The most common procedure -- the Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass – is not particularly complex. Other procedures for weight loss can also generally be done with relative safety. Many patients are still dying from gastric bypass surgery - 2 percent – according to the AMA Journal. (Of course, none of the cost-benefit calculus is easy. There is also a risk for many patients in not having the surgery.)
Complications range from infection, gallbladder injury and disease, blindness, blood clots, hernia, ulcers, peritonitis, and bowel obstruction. This is just too many people dying and many of these people die from medical malpractice.Roux-en-y Gastric Bypass and Medical Malpractice
Without a doubt, there are risks with any surgery and gastric bypass is major surgery. Accordingly, there are many serious injuries and even deaths as a result of gastric bypass surgery that do not involve medical malpractice. Most doctors are performing these procedures well and without complications.
But these operations cost as much as $20,000 or more. This lures in surgeons who should not be performing these operations either because they do not have the skill or because the patient is a poor candidate for the procedure.
So you have a small number of unqualified surgeons committing malpractice on a lot of patients. Sometimes, the medical malpractice is not during the surgery itself but the failure to manage known complications.
When the surgeon is inexperienced or fails to recognize postoperative complications, bariatric surgery can cause grave injury and death.
For example, failure to diagnose and treat post-surgical leaks. Informed consent is also a big issue in these cases. The standard of care requires that a treating doctor give the necessary information regarding all risks-vs-benefits of elective bariatric surgery.
One type of bariatric surgery that seems to be the subject of medical malpractice cases is biliopancreatic diversion surgery with a duodenal switch (“BPD surgery”).
Another big issue with these is you need to carefully monitor the patient postoperatively for signs and symptoms of malabsorption and malnutrition (B12, calcium, folate, iron, trace metals). Because the surgery can go too far and make it impossible for the patient to get the nutrients she needs. So doctors need to keep a watchful eye post-surgery.
Often, the malpractice in bariatric surgery cases is the failure to appreciate that these are high-risk patients that need to be monitored for markers for complications like an elevated heart rate and other signs of infection or stress. Postoperative infection is harder to diagnose in an obese patient. Fever, discomfort, and other typical symptoms of infection are not always seen with obese patients even when an infection is raging.
What causes these infections in the first place? It often leaks from the connection between the stomach and intestine (the gastrojejunostomy) in gastric bypass operations. You see these when the hole made in the stomach, punched out by the circular “anvil” to connect the stomach to the intestines, is too close to the staple lines used to make the stomach pouch. This impedes sufficient blood supply to the stomach wall. The end result is a compromised stomach wall which can cause a leak that causes an infection.
Another common mistake during these surgeries is the failure to diagnose a pulmonary embolism.Gastric Bypass Settlements and Verdicts
Below are some successful gastric bypass settlements and verdicts in medical malpractice lawsuits. These cases echo many of the themes in the Roux-en-y gastric bypass malpractice cases we discuss above.
- Dixon v. Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital - 2019, Kentucky: $10,658,265 Verdict. A 39-year-old woman underwent a laparoscopic-assisted Roux-en-Y gastric bypass. The following day, she suffered hypertension and a fever. Her CT scan was negative. The bariatric surgeon was concerned about her infection risk. He performed an exploratory procedure on her the following day. The surgeon identified an abdominal abscess with leakage. He repaired the leak. The hospital staff transferred the woman to the ICU. The woman underwent a CT scan. It revealed pleural effusion. The woman’s condition appeared to resolve within weeks. She was discharged. Two days later, the woman fell ill at home. She died three days later. Her cause of death was severe sepsis from a gastric leak. The woman’s family filed a malpractice lawsuit alleging negligence against the bariatric surgeon and hospital staff. They claimed the bariatric surgeon improperly performed the gastric bypass, while the hospital staff improperly monitored her and discharged her too soon. A jury awarded the woman’s family $10,658,265.
- Estate of Montgomery v. Midwest Surgical Associates - 2018, Nebraska: $3,365,000 Verdict. A 45-year-old woman underwent a gastric bypass procedure. She was discharged after four days. The woman suffered cardiac arrest and an anoxic brain injury five days later. She was brought to the hospital. The woman died three months later. Her family hired a medical malpractice lawyer who alleged that the hospital staff’s negligence caused her death. They claimed they failed to adequately monitor her, treat and diagnose her, receive her informed consent, and ensure her safety before discharging her. The defense denied the claims. They argued that the staff provided an appropriate standard of care. A jury awarded the family $3,365,000.
- Blutner v. The Mount Sinai Hospital - 2017, New York: $1,100,000 Verdict. A 58-year-old woman underwent a gastric bypass revision. Following the procedure, she developed postoperative complications. The woman required intubation. She could not turn herself over in her hospital bed. The woman suffered bedsores. She alleged that the hospital staff’s negligence caused these injuries. Her lawsuit claimed they failed to prevent the bedsores and timely intervene. The defense disputed her damages. A jury awarded the woman $1,000,000. Her husband received $100,000 for his loss of spousal services (loss of consortium) claim.
- Puente v. Patel - 2017, Texas: $14,285,506 Verdict. A 40-year-old woman underwent a Roux-en-Y gastric bypass. One month later, she suffered from thiamine deficiency, intractable vomiting, and stricture formation. The woman underwent an esophageal dilation. Her symptoms failed to resolve. The woman presented to her bariatric surgeon. He admitted her to the hospital. The woman was put on NBM status. She underwent a total parenteral nutrition. The woman developed neurological problems. She was discharged after two weeks. She was readmitted the following week. The woman had the same symptoms. She also had delirium and an altered level of consciousness. The woman suffered respiratory distress. She went into a coma. The hospital staff administered respiratory support. The woman regained consciousness. She received quadriparesis and brain damage diagnoses. The woman now had Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. She now lived in a nursing home. The woman alleged negligence against the bariatric surgeon and hospital staff. She claimed the bariatric surgeon failed to address her post-surgical symptoms, while the hospital staff failed to address her nutritional deficiencies. The defense disputed the woman’s injuries. They argued that a stroke that was unrelated to her treatments caused them. A jury ruled in the woman’s favor. They awarded her $14,285,506.
Our Maryland roux-en-y gastric bypass attorneys handle bariatric surgery cases involving death or serious injury. If you or a loved one sustained a serious injury as a result of an error or mistake during gastric bypass surgery and you have reason to suspect malpractice, call our Baltimore medical malpractice lawyers at 800-553-8082 or get a free online consultation.