The BBC recently reported on a Scottish Fatal Accident Inquiry which criticised standards of care provided to three patients who had their gallbladders removed via laparascopic (more commonly known as keyhole) surgery in 2006.

The three patients had each sustained accidental surgical damage during their operations.  However the Sherriff (the Scottish equivalent of a Judge) also made criticisms regarding the standard of post operative care provided to the deceased patients.  In each case it was noted that the surgeon involved had failed to consider the possibility that a mistake had been made during the surgery as a possible reason for their patient’s decline.  The Sheriff cited this as a cause or significant factor in each patient’s failure to recover.  

These days, much surgery is performed laparascopically as this operative approach has many benefits including reduced pain and scarring and speedier recovery times.  However, compared to an open procedure, it often carries a greater risk of accidental perforation of surrounding structures such as other organs or arteries.  In some circumstances such damage to other structures constitutes medical negligence but in other cases, it is a recognised risk of the keyhole surgery.  What is more often negligent, is a failure to consider, or delay in considering, the possibility of inadvertent damage to other organs or arteries when the patient fails to recover as expected.  

Inadvertent damage to surrounding structures during surgery can lead to serious internal bleeding and/or overwhelming sepsis which in turn can cause cardiac arrest leading to neurological injury or death or damage to internal organs.  Swift identification of possible inadvertent surgical damage is therefore essential in preventing serious and disabling consequences ensuing from such errors.