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Bile duct injuries: the cause and their symptoms

In New York and elsewhere, surgical errors are all too common. In gallbladder surgery, for instance, the surgeon may traumatize the bile duct, causing it to form scars and become narrower. This condition is known as a bile duct stricture. When bile is prevented from draining into the intestine, it can back up into the liver and leak into the abdominal cavity. The result is obstructive jaundice.

Symptoms may appear not long after surgery, or they may take several weeks or months to manifest. They include not only jaundice but also nausea, vomiting, persistent pain and discomfort and fever. Delayed symptoms usually center on jaundice, and an early onset of symptoms is normally related to bile leakage.

Bile duct injuries occur in roughly 1 percent of all gallbladder operations. Among these patients, 20 percent additionally suffer from injuries to the hepatic artery, which is the blood vessel that leads to the liver. Since most patients recover quickly from gallbladder surgery, longer recovery times should raise a red flag for physicians. Patients themselves should seek medical attention before they wait too long.

A medical malpractice attorney can review any cases involving bile duct injuries and determine if the victim has a viable case. During the assessment, a lawyer will likely request an inquiry with the local medical board and bring in medical experts and other third parties. It must be shown that there was a doctor-patient relationship, the patient followed all the doctor's instructions and the doctor failed to live up to an objective standard of care.

An attorney can also estimate a reasonable settlement for the client based on medical records and the possibility of future medical attention. It could also cover pain and suffering and lost income. If possible, he or she can negotiate an out-of-court settlement, litigating only as a last resort.

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