California – Gynecologist – Complications After A Laparoscopic Assisted Vaginal Hysterectomy For Irregular Bleeding And Abdominal Pain

Sometime prior to 2011, a gynecologist began treating a patient with a history of a prior myomectomy in 2011, pre-diabetes, and fibromyalgia.

On 3/8/2011, the patient presented to the gynecologist with complaints of irregular vaginal bleeding with some pain in her right lower quadrant that worsened when she was on her period.  The patient informed the gynecologist that she was “ready for a hysterectomy.”  Medical records for this visit do not document the extent of the bleeding, whether or not the bleeding contributed to any other symptoms, the patient’s level of pain, or whether or not the pain interfered with the patient’s lifestyle.  At the conclusion of this visit, the gynecologist referred the patient for a pelvic ultrasound with plans to follow up after the ultrasound.

On 4/5/2011, the patient had a pelvic ultrasound which showed the uterus was oriented anteverted and located midline.  A fibroid was visualized in the right lateral aspect of the uterus that measured 5.3 by 4.2 by 5.3 centimeters.  The endometrial stripe measured 12 millimeters.  No other fibroids were seen.  The left and right ovary were normal.  There was no fluid in the cul-de-sac.  The fibroid had increased in size compared to a prior ultrasound in 2010.

On 4/11/2011, the patient presented to the gynecologist for a follow-up.  The gynecologist went over the results from the ultrasound and discussed possible treatment options.  The gynecologist did not recommend or perform an endometrial biopsy to determine the reason for endometrial thickening or repeat the ultrasound to watch this condition.  The gynecologist did not consider or document that the irregular bleeding could be caused by endometrial thickening, endometrial hyperplasia, or endometrial polyp.  She did not recommend a dilation and curettage.  At the conclusion of this visit, a decision was made for the patient to undergo a hysterectomy, which was scheduled to occur on 6/27/2011.  The patient indicated that she wanted a bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy, but the gynecologist advised her to leave in the ovaries.

On 6/24/2011, the patient presented to the gynecologist for a preoperative evaluation.  The gynecologist offered the patient medical and surgical options and the patient chose a hysterectomy.  The gynecologist explained various surgical options, including risk factors and complications.  During the physical examination of the patient, the gynecologist noted the patient’s uterus was bulky and that it did not descend well.  The gynecologist did not document any observable vaginal bleeding or any pelvic pain with palpation of the pelvic organs.  At the conclusion of this visit, the gynecologist had formed a surgical plan to include a total vaginal hysterectomy and depending on whether the uterus was mobile in the operation room, possible laparoscopic assisted vaginal hysterectomy, possible exploratory laparotomy, and possible cystoscopy.

On 6/27/2011, the gynecologist performed a laparoscopic assisted vaginal hysterectomy, bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy, cystoscopy, and lysis of adhesions on the patient.  The medical records do not document a specific clinical reason for this choice in surgical technique versus a laparotomy approach.

During the surgery, the gynecologist encountered a web of filmy adhesions that were abundant along the back of both ovaries and continued along the back of the uterus.  The adhesions connected the bowel to the uterus and ovaries.

There were also adhesions from the ovaries to the side walls.  The gynecologist considered converting to an open procedure but opted to continue with laparoscopic dissection.  After dissection of all of the adhesions, the gynecologist obtained a general surgery consultation as a precaution to review the small bowel, which had been adherent, especially near the right ovary.  After observation through the monitor only, neither the surgeon nor the gynecologist noted any bowel injuries.

The gynecologist then proceeded with the vaginal hysterectomy portion of the surgery, which progressed “a bit more difficult than average but not remarkably so.”

Upon completion of the vaginal portion of the surgery, the gynecologist returned to the abdominal cavity.  Upon doing so, she noted a slight oozing from the round ligament on the left, which she cauterized.  The gynecologist then irrigated the pelvis and looked for any bleeding or injury but found none.

Prior to closing, the gynecologist requested a urology consultation.  After cystoscopy and examination revealed no injury to the bladder or ureter, the gynecologist completed the procedure.  The gynecologist’s detailed operative report does not specifically document the difficulties or complexities she encountered during the over eight-hour operation.

During the first three post-operative days, the patient experienced complications from the surgery that began to worsen.  The patient’s symptoms included abdominal pain, distention, lack of appetite, bowel dysfunction, fever, tachycardia, weakness, emesis, and anemia.

After attempting to treat the patient with antibiotics and observation, on 7/5/2011, the patient was taken in for an exploratory laparotomy.

During the surgery, several liters of feces were found in the patient’s abdomen, which were suctioned out.  Then, the abdomen was irrigated.  Further into the surgery, a 1-centimeter tear in the distal sigmoid and another 3-centimeter tear in the proximal rectum were identified, repaired, and treated with a colostomy.

From 7/5/2011 to 8/1/2011, the patient remained hospitalized and experienced complications including but not limited to nausea, vomiting, fatigue, fever, tachycardia, wound infection, anemia, and significant leukocytosis.  During this time period, the patient had to undergo radiological drainage of intraabdominal collections and was on several courses of antibiotics.  The patient was discharged from the hospital on 8/1/2011, approximately thirty-five days after her total hysterectomy.

Per the Board, the gynecologist committed gross negligence in her care and treatment of the patient by continuing with a long and complicated abdominal and pelvic surgery through laparoscopy without converting to laparotomy to prevent multiple intraoperative injuries.

In addition, the Board judged the gynecologist’s conduct to be below the minimum level of competence given the performance of a total abdominal hysterectomy and bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy without definitive clinical indication and without consideration of alternative treatments, prior to consideration of a major surgery, and given failure to maintain adequate and accurate records relating to her care and treatment of the patient.

The Board issued a public reprimand with stipulations to complete a medical record keeping course.

State: California

Date: July 2017

Specialty: Gynecology, General Surgery

Symptom: Abdominal Pain, Fever, Gynecological Symptoms, Nausea Or Vomiting, Weakness/Fatigue

Diagnosis: Post-operative/Operative Complication, Gynecological Disease

Medical Error: Procedural error, Unnecessary or excessive treatment or surgery, Lack of proper documentation

Significant Outcome: N/A

Case Rating: 3

Link to Original Case File: Download PDF

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