Gastric Banding Patient Receives $4.3M Settlement
Malpractice suit claimed surgeon's excessive force lacerated aorta.
Published: March 2, 2012
Here's a bariatric surgery complication that you don't hear very often: a lacerated aorta, allegedly caused by a surgeon's wayward grasper, according to a patient's medical malpractice lawsuit.
A Massachusetts bariatric surgeon has denied liability for the procedure gone wrong, but has agreed to a $4.3 million settlement with the patient, who claims the ill effects of a lacerated aorta linger more than 6 years later.
The then-62-year-old patient, whose name was withheld from court records, underwent the elective laparoscopic surgery on Oct. 25, 2005. During the case, which the defendant performed with assistance from a resident, 3 attempts were made to pass the band behind the upper part of the stomach with a blunt-tip grasper. The resident performed the first attempt, with the defendant - whose name was also withheld - making the second and third tries.
Each time, however, the grasper could not be found on the other side, according to court records. After the third attempt, the patient's blood pressure dropped and he suffered cardiopulmonary arrest. Upon opening the patient's chest, the physicians found that the patient's descending thoracic aorta above the level of the diaphragm had been lacerated, which resulted in massive bleeding. The patient was quickly placed on cardiopulmonary bypass and the laceration was surgically repaired.
The patient later sued the surgeon for malpractice. A surgical expert testified that the defendant deviated from accepted standards of care when placing the grasper above the diaphragm and into the thoracic cavity, using excessive force and tearing the plaintiff's thoracic aorta. According to court documents, the patient suffered multiple post-operative complications resulting from profound hypotension, including kidney failure and changes in his cognitive functioning. He received hemodialysis for more than 4 years before undergoing a kidney transplant. At the time of the settlement, the plaintiff claims to still experience "significant difficulty with short-term memory."
Names of the defendant's attorneys were withheld from court documents. Attorneys for the plaintiff did not respond to requests for comment.
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