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Man claims surgical error required a second appendectomy

Stories of surgical errors involving the removal of the wrong body part or tissue may seem hard to believe, especially when a respected surgeon is involved. Yet as today’s story reminds us, surgical errors can happen even when a patient is in otherwise capable hands.

According to the medical malpractice lawsuit that a 43-year-old man has filed against both the doctor and the hospital where he was treated, his appendectomy procedure failed to remove his appendix. Instead, a pathology report describes the tissue that was removed as a three-centimeter yellowish mass.

The mistake seems impossible, considering the credentials of the man’s surgeon. At the time, he was the hospital’s director of surgery, in addition to being board certified and a member of the American College of Surgeons. He has since opened his own private practice. 

As readers may know, an appendectomy is often scheduled for patients with appendicitis, or inflammation of the appendix. Symptoms often include abdominal pain, swelling and/or vomiting. Surgical removal of the appendix usually alleviates the discomfort.

In this case, the surgical error put the man at risk for peritonitis, a much more serious condition. If appendicitis is not treated -- usually by surgical removal -- the inflamed appendix can rupture and leak infected fluid into the abdominal cavity. That condition, called peritonitis, has been fatal to some patients. Fortunately, when the man experienced abdominal pain two months after the first appendectomy and was rushed to the hospital, the emergency staff recognized the problem and gave him a proper appendectomy. 

Source: AOL Jobs, "Man Sues Hospital, Doc: Appendix Left In After Appendectomy," Erik Sherman, April 11, 2014

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