As a Florida hospital injury attorney I am surprised by the number of gall bladder removal procedures that are performed in our country on a daily basis. The procedure to remove a gall bladder is a called a cholecystectomy and according to the Mayo Clinic carries “a small risk of complications.”

Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy, or “Lap Choly,” is a procedure performed to treat patients who may have a gallstone in the gallbladder, bile duct or inflammation in the gallbladder or pancreas. It is usually performed by general surgeons using a camera. The procedure is done under general anesthesia.

In 1985, the first laparoscopic cholecystecomy was performed. In 1992, the National Institute of Health concluded that laparoscopic cholesystecomies are “safe and effective” in the treatment for most patients. Laparoscopic surgery is very popular with both patients and their insurance companies. Since the procedure is performed without a large incision, patients are usually able to return home from the hospital and go back to work.

Nearly 750,000 laparoscopic cholecystectomies are performed annually in the United States, making it one of the most common elective surgeries. Unfortunately, there is a serious risk of injury or death associated with a laparoscopic cholecystectomy that many patients are unaware of until after the surgery. This is the possibility that there could be an intra-operative injury to the bile duct. This happens with greater frequency in laparoscopic procedures compared to open procedures when the surgeon is unable to fully visualize the anatomy and cuts the wrong duct.

If the wrong duct is cut in a laparoascopic cholecystecomy it must be recognized and repaired immediately. Failure to recognize an injury to a duct can lead to infection, excessive scarring and even death.

Our South Florida hospital injury law firm recommends that before undergoing a procedure to remove a gallbladder to ask your surgeon several important questions:

1. How many procedures have you performed?

2. How many times have you injured or cut the wrong duct?

3. Will the procedure be videotaped? Surprisingly many doctors and hospitals refuse to videotape the procedure for fear that it will be used to prosecute a Florida medical malpractice case. The videotape is essential information that can be provided to a reconstructive surgeon in case of a mishap.

4. Determine who will be assisting the surgeon in the surgery. The role of the surgical assistant is crucial in identifying the correct anatomy.

5. Determine if the hospital is a tertiary facility. This indicates the level of care that the hospital is qualified to provide.

6. Request a surgeon familiar with duct repairs to handle the case in the event of a duct injury. Often general surgeons are unfamiliar with the distinctly different technique required to repair a bile duct injury.

7. What is the average length of stay at the particular hospital.

8. What is the number of hospitalizations for the procedure.

9. Is the surgeon Board Certified in general surgery?

10. Is the surgeon insured for malpractice?

As a Miami lawyer who sues surgeons, I especially recommend that following the procedure you advise your surgeon, nurse and attending physician in the event that your pain gets worse, you have a fever, vomit, experience diarrhea, drainage from the incision or no bowel movement. These might be symptoms of a bile duct injury that can be life threatening if not treated immediately and properly.

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Our Miami law firm currently represents a Miami family for the wrongful death of a Miami husband and father following a botched cholecystectomy at a North Shore Medical Center, a local hospital. According to the Agency for Health Care (AHCA) website, North Shore Medical Center had 71 hospitalizations for laparoscopic gall bladder removal for patients age 18-64 in 2010 with the highest cost of hospitalization of $89,778 and 5.2 days of stay.