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A man who suffered a bowel perforation during gallbladder surgery receives a six-figure settlement

A man has received a six-figure settlement from Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust following a bowel perforation during routine surgery.

Posted on 31 May 2024

A man who we have called Jack attended Queen Mary’s Hospital, Sidcup, in March 2019 for a routine operation, called a laparoscopic cholecystectomy, to remove his gallbladder after he developed gallstones.  

During the operation, Jack suffered a perforated bowel (a hole in the wall of the small intestine or colon), but this was not recognised at the time, and he was discharged the same day. 

Over the next few days, Jack became increasingly unwell at home with severe abdominal pain and vomiting. Early in the morning a few days after his discharge, he felt extremely unwell and called a family member to take him back to hospital. His condition worsened during the journey to hospital and worsened further shortly after he arrived at hospital.  

He was taken to the operating theatre for emergency surgery where it was found that his small bowel had been caught by a stitch put in during the gallbladder operation, causing the bowel to perforate. Part of Jack’s bowel was removed during the surgery to repair the damage. 

The perforated bowel had caused peritonitis (inflammation of the tissue on the abdomen) and abdominal sepsis. Jack was so unwell that he was transferred to the Intensive Therapy Unit (ITU) after surgery. He was critically ill, spent a few weeks in a coma and remained in hospital for four months. 

Jack underwent around 15 operations as a result of his injury, including procedures to remove infected tissue caused by the bowel perforation, to create a temporary ileostomy when the attempt to repair his bowel failed and to treat necrotising fasciitis (an infection also known as “flesh-eating disease”). He also had to endure a period of being fed through a tube after developing an enterocutaneous fistula, which is a connection that forms between the intestinal tract or the stomach and the skin.   

He made a gradual recovery, and the temporary stoma was reversed after about seven months.  

Jack has been left with extensive abdominal scarring and weakness. He has abdominal bloating and symptoms caused by bowel adhesions which are likely to continue and lead to further hospital admissions in the future. He has also suffered a psychiatric injury which will require treatment.  

Jack faces several future risks as a result of his injury. He may develop an incisional hernia and may require surgery to repair a hernia or to treat adhesion-related bowel obstruction. Any future abdominal surgery is likely to be difficult and will come with the risk of further complications which could have long term consequences.  

Jack is now unable to undertake some aspects of the work he did before his surgery and although he has remained in employment, he faces future employment risks. After obtaining expert evidence, a Letter of Claim was prepared setting out the claim against the Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust. Liability was admitted and after detailed investigations into the impact of Jack’s injury on him, a settlement was agreed without the need for court proceedings to be started. 

Leigh Day solicitor Kelly Lawford, who was instructed by Jack said: 

“If mistakes had not been made in Jack’s original gall bladder surgery, the 15 further operations he had to undergo would have been entirely avoidable. 

"I am pleased that the Defendant accepted responsibility for our client’s injury and that we were able to resolve our client’s claim without court proceedings. I hope that the settlement achieved will enable him to face the potential future consequences of his injury with some security.” 

Kelly Lawford
Birth injury Brain injury Cerebral palsy Surgical negligence

Kelly Lawford

Kelly Lawford is an associate solicitor in the medical negligence department.

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