What is a Splenectomy?
A splenectomy is a surgical procedure in which all or party of the spleen removed. The spleen is about the size of baseball and located under the left ribs next to the stomach. The spleen functions like a filter for blood. It removes old or damaged red blood cells and it releases white blood cells to fight infection. When is a Splenectomy Necessary?
There are 2 main reasons a splenectomy might be necessary: (1) physical trauma; or (2) medical condition. The spleen is a comparatively fragile organ. The outer casing of the spleen can break or rupture as a result of blunt force trauma to the abdominal area. Car accidents are by far the most common injury-related cause of a ruptured spleen. Once ruptured through physical trauma the spleen will continue to bleed internally unless removed. There are a number of diseases and medical conditions that may necessitate a splenectomy. A splenectomy may become necessary if you develop certain blood diseases including idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura; thalassemia and sickle cell anemia. Certain types of cancers such as lymphocytic leukemia and Hodgkin’s lymphoma can compromise the spleen and require a splenectomy. Can You Live Without a Spleen?
When the spleen is removed, other organs in the body sort of take over the functions previously performed by the spleen. People without a spleen can live a relatively normal life, however, they will always be at an increased risk of infection and will take longer to recover from illnesses.
How is a Splenectomy Performed?
There are 2 different splenectomy procedures: (1) laparoscopic; and (2) open. A laparoscopic splenectomy is a minimally invasive method. The surgeon makes several small incisions in the abdomen and inserts a tiny tube with a camera at the end. Using the images from the camera the spleen is surgically removed with tools inserted through the other incisions. The advantage of this procedure is that it is less invasive and does not require full opening on the abdominal area. However, the laparoscopic procedure is not appropriate in many situations. When the spleen has been ruptured by physical trauma an open splenectomy is usually required. The open splenectomy involves is a traditional surgical procedure. The abdominal area is surgically opened and the spleen is manually removed using traditional surgical tools and methods.
Splenectomy Errors and Malpractice
Most splenectomy surgeries are performed without any issues or complications. However, surgical errors and mistakes do occur. One common source of malpractice during a splenectomy is a lateral femoral cutaneous nerve injury. These injuries can occur when the patient has improper padding or positioning. The solution to this problem is an inflatable bean bag or something similar to ensure proper positioning. The importance of positioning is magnified in older and obese patients. The surgeon and the operating room staff have an obligation to ensure adequate padding and positioning of the patient.
Splenectomy malpractice is not limited to nerve injuries. Splenectomy malpractice can involve other types of surgical errors and negligence in post-operative care.
Sample Verdicts and Settlements
There are not a great deal of these splenectomy cut nerve cases. Here a few randomly pulled settlements and verdicts involving the spleen. They cannot be used to predict the value of individual cases.
2018 – Texas $6.6 million: Plaintiff underwent open splenectomy because of blood condition. The surgery seemed to be successful but shortly after being discharged complications began to arise. After several weeks of testing and hospital visits it was eventually discovered that the plaintiff was suffering from severe blood clots. She sued the doctors and hospital for negligence in failing to monitor and timely diagnose her blood clots after the splenectomy surgery.
2017 – Indiana $1 million: In this case the plaintiff underwent a splenectomy and the doctors used a surgical towel as padding to avoid damaging the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve. However, doctors failed to fully remove the surgical towel which remained in his body for 20 before it was discovered and removed. During the 20 months the plaintiff suffered significant pain, weight loss and other physical symptoms.
2012 – Illinois $7.5 million: A man is receiving a laparoscopic splenectomy when one of the doctors perforates his duodenum and then fails to realize that it is severed. After surgery, the man begins to show symptoms of deterioration, such as respiratory distress and tachycardia. A few days later, an exploratory laparotomy is performed. The perforated duodenum goes unnoticed. Two days after this, the man is diagnosed with two perforations. He dies a few weeks later. His estate brings a claim, alleging that the doctors perforated the patient’s duodenum, failed to realize it, and then failed to repair it. A jury awarded him $7,522,032, which was later reduced to $6,000,000 due to a high/low agreement.
2010 – Oklahoma $120,600: A male falls at home and is transported by ambulance to the ER, where he undergoes emergency surgery to remove his ruptured spleen. 10 hours later, a nurse notices that his right foot is edematous and blue when his previous records did not indicate swelling. He is then diagnosed with a Lisfranc fracture in his foot, which did not come from his fall. He files suit against the hospital, claiming that he was under the exclusive control of the hospital and its employees during his surgery and when the injury happened (doctrine of res ipsa loquitur). A judge awards him $120,617.19 in damages.
2009 – Wisconsin: $17.3 million: A six-year-old is suffering from a congenital problem in her spleen, so she undergoes a laparoscopic splenectomy. During the surgery, the doctor uses a tool that he does not have any training or experiencing with. He transects the patient’s aorta, partially cutting the vein carrying blood to her lower extremities, abdomen, and heart, and injuring her small bowel. She loses almost the total amount of blood in her body, goes into cardiac arrest, and suffers an anoxic brain injury during the procedure. She now has permanent brain damage, is unable to feed herself, and is confined to a wheelchair. The case settles before trial for $17,300,000.
Contact a Lawyer for your Splenectomy Malpractice Case
Our malpractice lawyers handle surgical negligence cases, including claims of negligence during a splenectomy or that cause the need for a splenectomy. If you or a loved one sustained a serious injury as a result of an error or mistake during surgery, call our malpractice lawyers at 800-553-8082 or click here for a free online consultation.
- Splenectomy (video of procedure)
- Splenectomy Verdict in Wisconsin
- Cut medial nerve case in Maryland (not spleen related)
- Sample Expert Report (in a “cut the wrong thing” malpractice case)
- Medical Malpractice in Maryland (overview of medical malpractice claims in Maryland)
- Medical Malpractice Frequently Asked Questions (frequent victim questions)
- Valuing Malpractice Cas
es (what is the value of your potential malpractice lawsuit?)