Bowel Perforation Errors Can Lead to Sepsis and Even Death

A bowel perforation is a serious, potentially life-threatening medical condition that involves a hole in the colon. It can be caused by a number of factors but is generally the result of trauma or infection. All too often, it can also be caused by the negligence of a healthcare professional.

If you or a loved one has fallen victim to bowel perforation as a result of medical malpractice, contacting an experienced personal injury lawyer near you is the next step. Read on to learn more about how Janet, Janet & Suggs, LLC’s legal and medical team can help those who have been harmed seek compensation for bowel perforation injuries. 

What Are the Symptoms of Bowel Perforation?

Bowel, or colon, perforation is the most serious complication of colonoscopy, and it is generally considered medical malpractice. Bowel perforation has an overall mortality rate of 30%. Symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Severe cramping in the abdomen
  • Bloating
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Fever and/or chills
  • Fatigue
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Change in bowel movements

While bowel perforations may be treatable—usually through surgery—the complications from this type of injury can include bleeding, infection (including sepsis), and even death. Common causes of perforation include trauma, inflammation, infection, cancer, ischemia, and obstruction. 

If you have recently experienced some sort of trauma—perhaps due to a car accident or sports injury—or have undergone a recent surgery, it is best to keep an eye out for potential symptoms of bowel perforation, as the condition will only worsen with time. While the cause of a perforated bowel can sometimes  be natural, if the injury is due to trauma during surgery or negligence on the part of a doctor, it could qualify as malpractice. If there is any doubt, you should consult a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. 

What Do You Need to Prove in a Medical Malpractice Case Involving Bowel Perforation?

Proving medical malpractice in bowel perforation claims will depend on the cause of injuries. Bowel perforation caused by colonoscopy generally is found to result from a few common medical errors:

  • ​​performance error
  • improper monitoring after colonoscopy
  • lack of informed consent

Investigators will examine medical records, lab reports, and other evidence to determine where medical professionals should have reasonably been able to meet the standard of care. For example, one of the most common infectious causes of bowel perforation is appendicitis, a common occurrence. About 5 to 9 out of every 100 people will develop appendicitis at some point, and it is one of the most common causes of severe, acute abdominal pain. When patients present with the symptoms of appendicitis, it should be ruled out before the risk of severe injury, such as a ruptured appendix or bowel perforation, increases. 

However, there are a number of causes for bowel perforation, which means that proving it was medical error requires a close look by an experienced investigative team.

  • Improper preparation for colonoscopy, or error during the colonoscopy itself
  • Error during abdominal or pelvic surgery
  • Improperly inserted enema
  • Failure to recognize or treat signs of infection
  • Trauma during surgery
  • Failure to provide properly hygienic conditions
  • Traumatic childbirth of any kind
  • Failure to recognize or treat intestinal issues (including gallstones, ulcers, appendicitis, or digestive conditions including Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis)

How Are Malpractice Cases Involving Bowel Injury Resolved?

The first step in resolving any malpractice case is to find an experienced injury law firm and set up an appointment. Any case involving malpractice is likely to be complex and can add stress on top of injury—stress you don’t have to shoulder alone. Having experienced legal support on your side will ensure that a difficult process doesn’t become harder than it has to be. 

How Much Is a Bowel Perforation Settlement?

There are generally two types of damages eligible for compensation under state and federal personal injury laws: economic damages and non-economic damages.

Economic Damages

Often referred to as “monetary damages” or “special damages” in legalese, these types of damages have a clear and provable monetary value. Some examples include:

  • Hospital bills
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of future income
  • Additional medical expenses (MRIs, CT scans, prescription drugs, doctor’s bills, etc.)
  • Out-of-pocket costs
  • Property damage
  • Funeral and burial expenses (in the event of a wrongful death)

Non-Economic Damages 

“General damages” or “psychological damages” are non-economic losses without a clear and provable monetary value. This can make it more difficult for inexperienced firms to show evidence since they are not reflected in medical bills or other proven forms of expense. 

  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Mental trauma 
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Loss of enjoyment of life / diminished quality of life
  • Disability or disfigurement
  • Depression, stress, anxiety and fear
  • Loss of love, affection, support or companionship

Any settlement for a bowel perforation should fairly reflect the scope of the victim’s economic and non-economic damages.

Why Should You Choose Janet, Janet & Suggs?

Janet, Janet & Suggs has over 40 years of experience with medical malpractice lawsuits. We provide expert witnesses and attorneys to support clients through the complex process of bowel perforation malpractice cases and other personal injury claims.  

  • $190 Million The Johns Hopkins Hospital Sexual Abuse: One of the largest in U.S. history for a case of this nature, this class action settlement was called “a historic day” not only for the victims of Dr. Nikita Levy but for the United States civil justice system. Johns Hopkins’ liability was founded on its failure to establish procedures and adequately oversee the care provided by its OBGYN department, including the presence of a chaperone during its pelvic examinations. This led to the sexual abuse of women through unnecessary gynecological/exams and illicit photos.
  • $24.25 Million Failure to Diagnose: A record-breaking medical malpractice jury verdict in the District of Columbia, obtained for a child who suffered brain damage and cerebral palsy because her doctors failed to properly diagnose and respond to an airway obstruction.

Our track record of successful verdicts and settlements demonstrates our commitment to working for justice and fair compensation. We fight for victims of medical malpractice, and there are no fees unless we win your case. Contact us for a free consultation to discuss your case and learn about your rights.


 William R. “Topper” Cramer

Reviewed by:
William R. “Topper” Cramer, RN, MBA, MS, CCRN, CFRN, EMT-P
Legal Nurse Consultant | Nurse Paralegal

Topper has been involved in emergency, transport, and critical care medicine since 1978 when he became an EMT in high school. A United States Air Force veteran, he remains active as a pre-hospital RN/paramedic, certified flight nurse, and critical care nurse. In addition to his professional role as a nurse consultant/nurse paralegal, he is the Chief of Operations at Walkersville Volunteer Rescue in Frederick County, Maryland. READ FULL BIO

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