Gastroparesis: What causes stomach paralysis and how to treat it

 

When a surgeon damages or cuts the vagus nerve during bariatric or abdominal surgery, it can cause gastroparesis, paralyzing the stomach

 
August 1, 2017

As bariatric weight loss surgery has become more popular, I have noticed more and more patients calling my office about serious, life-changing problems after a botched surgery. One of the medical problems that a number of my clients are experiencing is gastroparesis.

A normally-functioning stomach has a major role in digesting food, as well as emptying the contents into the small intestines for further digestion.

With gastroparesis, the stomach is partially paralyzed. This means that the stomach cannot properly digest food and empty its contents. The condition has classic symptoms of gastroparesis are bad abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and a decreased appetite.

People with gastroparesis have damaged nerves or muscles that prevent the stomach from working properly. When clients with gastroparesis hire me as their Texas medical malpractice attorney, to investigate their potential bariatric surgery medical malpractice case, we work closely with trusted medical experts to identify the cause of this condition. Frequently, but not always, surgical malpractice causes gastroparesis.

Causes of Gastroparesis

In my experience, the most common cause of gastroparesis is surgical malpractice. This happens when a surgeon cuts, severs, damages, compresses, or traps the vagus nerve during a bariatric or other gastrointestinal procedure. Because the vagus nerve innervates the stomach, if it stops working, or is not working correctly, it can cause gastroparesis.

The standard of care requires surgeons to locate and protect nerves and blood vessels during an operation or procedure. In other words, damage to the vagus nerve should not happen and is usually caused by medical negligence.

As part of our investigation of gastroparesis cases, we consider other possible causes, including a bad stomach virus, which can cause prolonged nausea and vomiting, but usually eventually goes away; narcotic pain medication can slow down digestive functions; and connective tissue diseases, like multiple sclerosis and muscular dystrophy, can impair digestion.

Treatment

Because there is no cure for gastroparesis, doctors focus on treating the symptoms. Treatment typically starts with diet and medications, and can progress to more invasive options if those do not work.

My clients with gastroparesis have described the need to stay on a rather dull and limited diet of very small portions of soft foods that are difficult to digest. They often have to avoid many meats, fruits, vegetables, and breads.

Doctors typically prescribe two types of medication to help alleviate the symptoms of a paralyzed stomach. Prokinetic or promotility medications, like metoclopramide, domperidone, and erythromycin, help empty the stomach more quickly and sometimes help reduce vomiting, nausea, and bloating. Other medications, called antiemetics, address severe nausea and vomiting. All of my bariatric surgery medical malpractice clients suffer from such severe nausea and vomiting that it is disabling.

If diet and medical therapy are insufficient for a patient, other potential treatments include surgical insertion of a feeding tube. Feeding tubes can pass through the nose or with placement of a J tube that goes directly into the small intestine. Liquid formula nutrition is placed into the feeding tube. If the patient still suffers from inadequate nutrition from a feeding tube, the next step is setting up an IV site for total parenteral nutrition (TPN). With TPN, the patient is fed through an IV.

A final surgical option that some physicians recommend is a gastric pacemaker. This device can be placed laparoscopically and generates electrical impulses to stimulate the stomach’s muscles, in a hope of emptying the stomach contents.

We are here to help

If you or someone you care for had bariatric weight loss surgery and now suffers from gastroparesis, call 281-580-8800, for a free consultation about your potential case with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer at Painter Law Firm, in Houston, Texas.

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Attorney Robert Painter is member of Painter Law Firm PLLC, in Houston, Texas, where he files medical malpractice and wrongful death lawsuits on behalf of injured patients and their families. He focuses his law practice on medical negligence cases. Robert Painter has a unique perspective on medical malpractice, based on his past experiences as a hospital administrator and a lawyer who represented hospitals and doctors early in his career.

Robert Painter

Robert Painter is a medical malpractice lawyer at Painter Law Firm PLLC.

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