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Daytona Medical Malpractice Attorney | Florida Medical Malpractice Law

Failure to Timely Diagnose Bile Leak Injury

If you have undergone surgery to remove your gallbladder and have suffered from a bile leak, you likely experienced a great deal of pain. However, that alone without more is not likely legally actionable in Florida under our current medical malpractice laws.

Unfortunately bile leak is one of the known complications of cholecystectomy to treat cholecystitis. In layman’s terms, that is surgery to remove the gallbladder to treat a diseased gallbladder.

Bile leakage is more common in laparoscopic procedures than in open surgery. The most noticable symptom of bile leakage is abdominal pain. Since bile aids in digestion, it is quite corosive to parts of the body not meant to come into contact with it. Bile can cause severe pain when leaked into the abdominal area.

What is more likely to be legally actionable is a failure to timely diagnose a bile leak. Let’s look at a case study involving an actual bile duct injury.

The patient underwent laparoscopic surgery to remove her gall bladder due to acute cholecystitis, but the doctor apparently misidentified the patient’s common bile duct and thought it was the cystic duct. After surgery, she reported abdominal pain.

Other signs included high bilirubin levels and a high white blood cell count of 16,000. High bilirubin levels are an indication of a bile leak and high white blood cells (the high end of normal is 10,000) indicate a infection or inflamation. These are both signs of problems with bile and a bile leak that went un-acted upon by the patient’s doctors.

Nine days later after symptoms persisted, doctors did a scan to measure the production and flow of bile from her liver to her small intestine. This HIDA scan indicated a bile leak was likely even though it did not directly test the source of the leak, the common bile duct.

Two days after the HIDA scan, her doctors performed an ERCP which showed a large bile leak which the original surgean had treated by plugging with a stent (which is a common and acceptable treatment for a bile leak). What is not common and acceptable however, is the delay and untimely manner with which this woman’s doctors diagnosed the cause of her pain. She continued to have complications after several surgeries to repair the leak.

Surgical gallbladder perforations can also cause bile leaks, but again, bile leaks are usually known complications of surgery and not viable medical malpractice cases in Florida. However, the failure to timely diagnose a bile leak can cause significant damage and can often lead to a valid medical malpractice lawsuit.


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