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Patient Safety and Minimally Invasive Surgical Procedures

Minimally invasive surgical procedures (laparoscopic, thoracoscopic, and arthroscopic) come with many benefits. Ideally, patients spend less time in the hospital, have less scarring, and recover more quickly.

The majority of these surgeries occur without incident. In “Events in Minimally Invasive Surgical Procedures: Risks for Organ and Vascular Complications,” Lee Anne Gardner, PhD, RN, explains, however, that injuries do sometimes occur. Understanding when and why they happen can not only lead to preventing these incidents but also can inform both patients and surgeons about the best course of action to take.

Trocar Trouble

A trocar is a device that surgeons use when performing minimally invasive procedures. Trocars have hollow tubes that serve as entry ports into the body for optical scopes and surgical equipment. Patients are at greatest risk of injury the moment surgeons insert the first trocar, especially when the introduction of the trocar is done “blindly,” without any imaging.

Internal injuries to the intestine, bladder, kidney, or a vascular area is the most frequent injury from a trocar insertion. When such injuries are discovered during the procedure, the most frequent course of action is to convert to minimally invasive surgery to an open surgery. However, in some situations, the injury is not discovered until after the fact and patients require additional procedures and care.

Why do these injuries occur? According to Dr. Gardner, “[t]wo patient characteristics that can affect laparoscopic surgical outcomes and internal injuries are abdominal adhesions and body size.” Scarring increases the chance for organs to stick to the abdominal wall, which in turn increases the chance for a surgeon to damage an organ while inserting the trocar. Thin patients are at risk because there is not a lot of space between their organs, the abdominal wall, and other vessels. Obese patients have excess fatty tissue, which increases the chance of error during the incision.

Sometimes, even when the trocar doesn’t cause injury to an internal organ, it can cause other problems such as bleeding, bruising, skin infections, and hernias. Most of these require a return to the OR for additional care and sometimes even additional surgery.

Minimally invasive surgical procedures are generally considered to be safer for most patients than open surgical procedures. Nevertheless, it is still important for healthcare providers to consider the following as they determine how to best care for their patients:

As Gardner states, “No surgical procedure is without risks.” This includes minimally invasive surgeries and procedures. If you or someone you love has struggled with an injury related to a minimally invasive surgical procedure, a traditional surgery, or any type of medical error, please contact our experienced Cleveland malpractice lawyers to discuss your options for legal recourse and for obtaining the compensation you deserve. To schedule your free consultation, call 216-287-0900 or contact us online today.