Three tips to avoid hernia repair surgery problems
Surgeons sometimes mistake serious problems for normal pain after hernia surgery
In my career as a Texas medical malpractice lawyer, I have represented many clients who had a hernia and then experienced additional suffering when a surgeon messed up the hernia repair surgery.
What is a hernia?
A hernia develops when a combination of pressure and a weakness in the muscle or fascia (which hold the organ in place) allows the organ to push through into an area where it should not be.
Hernias are pretty common, with 200,000 being diagnosed each year. Many people have hernias and do not even know it. Common symptoms, though, include a bulge, swelling, or pain.
Anything that causes abdominal pressure can contribute to a hernia, including lifting heavy objects, lots of coughing or sneezing, and constipation or diarrhea.
Common types of hernias include hiatal hernia, femoral hernia, incisional hernia, and umbilical hernia. There are many others.
A hiatal hernia happens when part of the stomach squeezes through the hiatus, a small opening in the diaphragm.
A femoral hernia occurs when part of the intestines go into the area where the femoral artery passes (the femoral artery goes to the upper leg).
You can get an incisional hernia when the intestines push through the abdominal wall where you had a previous surgery.
And, finally, an umbilical hernia develops when part of the small intestine passes through the abdominal wall near the belly button, or navel.
Surgery, negligence, and complications
Depending on the symptoms and location of a hernia, a doctor or surgeon may recommend a procedure or surgery to repair the hernia. Hernia surgeries are often done with a laparoscopic, or less-invasive, procedure.
The basic goal of surgery is to pull back into place, or reduce, the organ that has gone through the muscle or tissue and invaded an adjacent space. For example, for a hiatal hernia, the surgeon will pull down the stomach to the correct location below the diaphragm. Once the organ is back to its correct anatomical spot, the surgeon will then repair the defect or space where the organ pushed through, usually with some internal stitches.
I am currently representing a number of clients who had hernia repair surgeries that were bungled by their surgeons. In each of these cases, the patient ended up having an unusual amount of abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting after surgery and went back to the surgeon for follow up.
Their surgeons felt that the complaints were in the normal range for people who went through a hernia repair surgery. The surgeons essentially told their patients with failed hernia surgeries to keep taking their pain medications and not to worry about it. In one case, the surgeon went so far as to ignore an upper GI study and an abdominal CT scan, both of which showed that the hernia that was supposed to have been repaired was still there.
The surgical experts that we have hired to review these cases have told us that the longer you wait to fix a failed hernia surgery, the more serious the damages can be. One issue is the surgeon has to deal with extensive scar tissue during a second surgery. Another is that scar tissue can attach to an organ and cause it to fuse into an improper location. This can be very difficult to repair.
What you can do
If you find yourself in the position of having a hernia surgery, use these three simple steps to make sure that your surgeon does not write-off your pain and complaints as just being the norm.
First, if you experience nausea, vomiting, or fever after the hernia surgery, give a detailed account of it to the surgeon. I recommend keeping a written log or narrative of each time it happens.
Second, pay attention to your pain level. It is certainly normal to experience pain after any surgery, but if you find your pain is getting dramatically worse with time, make sure and let you surgeon know. Again, the more detailed the information that you can provide to your surgeon, the better.
Third, when radiology tests are done, like an upper GI, CT scan, or MRI scan, ask to see the radiologist’s report, and then discuss it with your surgeon. Pay careful attention if the radiologist mentions that a hernia is still present.
If you or someone you care for has been injured by a bad hernia surgery, contact the experienced Houston-based medical malpractice lawyers at Painter Law Firm for a free consultation. Our number is 281-580-8800.
Robert Painter is a medical malpractice lawyer at Painter Law Firm PLLC.
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On 4/1/2018, the new law will end the current practice where doctors can secretly enter a DNR order against patient and family wishes
This article was originally published in the September/October 2017 edition of "The Houston Lawyer" magazine
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