Weight loss surgeries have increased dramatically in recent years as procedures have been developed that are safer and pose fewer risks of complication. Not unexpectedly, as procedures rise, so do lawsuits for sagging skin, a common and unsatisfactory result of the surgery and subsequent rapid weight loss. Patients who undergo these procedures tend to loose large amount of weight very rapidly, and they’re much more likely to experience excess skin sagging underneath their clothing. With more gradual weight loss from diet and exercise, the skin’s elasticity can snap back into place.
Loose, saggy skin that hangs down over the abdomen can really chafe and cause significant pain. Even worse, it can result in wounds that are difficult to heal. However, correction of this problem usually requires additional surgery, known as “body contouring.” Many patients who experience this problem have found that insurance companies are reluctant to pay for the surgery, but claims have been made in court that the surgery is reconstructive, and should therefore be covered by law.
Reconstructive surgery is a surgery that is intended to restore bodily function, correct or repair abnormal body structures, or to create a normal appearance. A group of patients in California have filed a recent class action against the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan that alleges violation of California law by denial of body contouring to restore normal appearance after bariatric surgery. Many patients also experience loss of function from recurrent infections, inability to maintain adequate personal hygiene, and limitation of activity from the skin folds known as “pannus.”
Other complications of bariatric surgery can be deadly. When people undergo bariatric surgery, the gastrointestinal tract is segregated and stapled. One of the most feared complications associated with these surgeries is a leak, usually caused by failure of the staples to puncture all of the tissues or to close complete. This results in a leak of fluid from the GI tract into the abdomen, causing peritonitis, a condition that can be life threatening. In fact, the FDA had received reports of at least 100 deaths resulting from stapler malfunctions, with a reported 9,000 adverse events and complications.
Other complications that occur as a result of these injuries include hernias, hemorrhages, infection, sepsis, reoperation, and death. Failure to recognize and treat a leak can be fatal. This type of medical error has resulted in several successful legal suits across the United States. One study of patients who had undergone gastric bypass found that risk factors for poor outcomes included surgeon inexperience. The field is a lucrative one, so some doctors may rush into a bariatric practice without adequate training or experience.
Another serious problem can arise when changes in the GI tract after surgery result in an inability to absorb vitamins and nutrients. This is a common occurrence after certain types of procedures and the standard of care is replacement of these essential nutrient. In cases where vitamins like B6, B12, and B1 are not absorbed, people can develop neurologic diseases that range from nerve damage in the extremities to irreversible memory loss and dementia.
The Journal of the American Medical Association has reported that 2 percent of all gastric bypass patients die within 30 days of surgery. As many as one in twenty die within a year. Many of these deaths are sadly preventable.
If you or a loved one has experienced life-threatening complications or problems after bariatric surgery, you may have legal recourse in some situations. Call us today for a consultation and case review. We are Chicago’s top medical malpractice attorneys and we can help you decide if your rights have been violated. Call today to see if you may be eligible for compensation for costs associated with bad outcomes after bariatric surgery.