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James Bell: Perforated Colon Claims

By Principal Lawyer, Clinical Negligence

We have had a number of enquiries over the years regarding alleged negligently performed colonoscopies. The usual case history is that the doctor inadvertently perforated the patient's colon. This injury was maybe recognised immediately at the time of the procedure or prior to discharge from the endoscopy unit.  The patient  has then been fitted with a colostomy bag, and will need another surgery in a few months to reverse it. The patient is keen to know whether they have a case that we can pursue.The general rule is that perforation of the colon known recognised risk of the procedure, so on the above facts there is no case.Perforations can occur without the surgeon realising what has happened. I have one case where this occurred during a polypectomtomy procedure - this is the name of the  procedure in which a polyp (a potential cancer source) is removed from the colon for analysis. The recognised risk of a perforation is probably 1 in 10,000 so the fact that the colon was perforated cannot be alleged to be negligent.The negligence in these cases occurs in the failure to recognise the perforation in timely manner. In the case I am acting (listed for trial on 16th May 2011)  the perforation was not recognised, despite repeated  requests for medical assistance, until Day 4 post procedure.By this stage the patient had severe peritonitis and this had developed into a rare and often fatal condition called Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis (ADEM).When readmitted to hospital on day 4 post procedure my client had just a 20% chance of surviving. Incredibly, after weeks in ITU and months in rehab she survived, to enjoy life with her husband, children and grandchildren.The trial on this case is listed for 16th May 2011. I will update the blog with the result in due course.James Bell is a Partner in the Russell Jones & Walker clinical negligence team. If you or a member of your family have a clinical negligence enquiry please call our expert clinical negligence solicitors on 0800 916 9049, fill in our short online claim form or email and one of our specialist clinical negligence team will be in touch