Can You File a Maryland Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Over Complications From Gastric Bypass Surgery?

Posted on behalf of Peter T. Nicholl in Medical Malpractice Published on January 5, 2024 and updated on February 6, 2024.

doctors preparing to perform surgeryAs America’s obesity epidemic continues to worsen, more people are opting for gastric bypass surgery, also known as bariatric surgery.

These patients are often unable to lose weight using other treatments, and remaining obese is extremely dangerous for their long-term health.

While gastric bypass surgery helps people lose a lot of weight quickly, the procedure is risky. Patients could suffer severe or life-threatening injuries, especially when doctors do not uphold the standard of care. This includes failure to monitor thiamine and B-12 levels after the procedure, which is one of the most common issues we see after bariatric surgery.

The Maryland medical malpractice lawyers at The Law Offices of Peter T. Nicholl have been helping medical malpractice victims secure full compensation for their damages for decades.

There are no upfront costs or legal obligations. Call: 410-297-0271 today.

What Happens in Gastric Bypass Surgery?

The end goal of gastric bypass surgery is to limit the amount of food patients will be able to eat and digest. The stomach is divided into two separate pouches. The smaller pouch stores and digests food. The surgeon connects the small intestine to a hole in the smaller pouch.

Once the procedure is complete, patients are going to feel full much more quickly, so they are going to eat a lot less food at each meal. This can result in significant weight loss in a relatively short amount of time.

Gastric Banding Surgery

While many patients undergo gastric bypass, some undergo gastric banding. The surgeon inserts an inflatable band around the upper part of your stomach. This shrinks the area of the stomach that can store and digest food.

What Are the Potential Dangers of Gastric Bypass Surgery?

Gastric bypass surgery is considered a last resort for people who are extremely overweight, as the procedure is incredibly risky. The more invasive the surgery, the greater the risk, and bariatric surgery is incredibly invasive. If doctors do not exercise a high level of care, patients could suffer severe injuries.

One of the most dangerous parts of the procedure is stapling tissue. Your stomach must be stapled so it can be divided into two pouches. Doctors must also staple your small intestine to the small stomach pouch.

If any staples fail, there is a risk of stomach acid spilling into your abdominal cavity. Bacteria from the incision sites could cause an infection that could result in sepsis.

Other serious side effects associated with gastric bypass or banding surgery include:

  • Blood clots
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Bowel obstructions
  • Internal bleeding
  • Hernias
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Ulcers
  • Tearing of the stomach tissue
  • Peritonitis
  • Gallstones
  • Diarrhea
  • Malnutrition
  • Vitamin deficiencies, including iron, mineral, protein, thiamine or vitamin B-12 deficiency

What Are Some Examples of Medical Malpractice During or After the Procedure?

All surgeries carry risks, but some complications are the result of medical malpractice. Medical malpractice can happen during the procedure or afterward as the patient is recovering.

Doctors have a legal obligation to provide appropriate follow-up care to identify potential problems and provide appropriate treatment. When doctors do not uphold the acceptable standard of care, they could face liability for damages.

Here are some examples of medical malpractice that could stem from bariatric surgery.

Mistakes During Surgery

Doctors could operate on the wrong part of the intestine. They could leave surgical tools (sponges, scalpels, gauze) inside the patient or damage surrounding tissues or organs. Doctors could sever vital nerves and permanently impair some involuntary bodily functions.

Anesthesia Errors

One of the major risks of surgery comes from the fact that the patient must be put under anesthesia. If doctors are not careful, the patient could suffer a loss of oxygen that could be fatal or result in permanent brain damage.

Failure To Monitor Vital Signs After Surgery

Doctors need to keep a close eye on your vital signs after surgery. If your vitals start to crash, it could indicate a serious complication, like an infection, blood clot or internal bleeding. For example, doctors need to watch for chest pain and shortness of breath.

Blood clots are more likely if the patient smokes, has a history of blood clots, lower extremity edema, sleep apnea or had a long period of prolonged immobility. Doctors need to take a full medical history so they know if a patient is at higher risk of blood clots.

Failing To Diagnose Post-Surgery Complications

Doctors need to know how to diagnose complications from the procedure. For example, they need to identify signs of infection before the infection spreads. Prevention requires close monitoring and analysis of vital signs and diagnostic tests.

Failure To Provide Vitamins and Nutritional Support After the Procedure

One of the major problems with gastric bypass surgery is reduced nutritional intake. Patients are no longer able to absorb the amount of nutrients they were before the procedure. They can develop deficiencies in many nutrients, such as thiamine and vitamin B-12, which is incredibly dangerous. Other vitamin deficiencies after bariatric surgery may include:

  • Vitamin D
  • Iron
  • Folate
  • Riboflavin
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin K
  • Vitamin A
  • Copper
  • Calcium

Doctors need to carefully monitor patients to detect signs of nutritional deficiency and take appropriate steps to mitigate these issues.

Common Signs Medical Malpractice May Have Happened

The best way to determine if malpractice may have occurred is to discuss the situation with an experienced lawyer. However, there are a few common signs that malpractice may have occurred, other than physical symptoms you may experience:

  • Lack of follow-up visits – Doctors need to closely monitor patients who underwent invasive surgery. If the doctor has not requested a lot of follow-up visits, he or she may be failing to uphold the standard of care.
  • You are not seeing immediate results – You should see results right away, such as quick weight loss, a drop in blood sugar levels and lower cholesterol.
  • The doctor did not do a thorough pre-operation process – Doctors need to take a complete medical history to identify underlying conditions that could cause problems during or after the procedure. If the doctor could have conducted more tests, there may be grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit.
  • You have complications that went undiagnosed for a significant amount of time – This could indicate inadequate post-operative care, such as failure to order tests or thoroughly analyze test results.

Contact The Law Offices of Peter T. Nicholl To Discuss Legal Options

If you or your loved one suffered an injury because of medical malpractice, we may be able to help you take legal action. While we know compensation cannot change what happened, it can help you get the medical care you need and mitigate the financial and psychological consequences of your injuries.

We represent clients on contingency, which means there are no upfront costs. We do not get paid unless our clients get paid.

Give us a call today. The initial consultation is free of charge. Contact us at: 410-297-0271.