Our firm is proud to announce that New York Medical Malpractice Lawyer Marijo C. Adimey obtained a $1.27 million verdict in a colonoscopy case in Brooklyn, New York City.
The plaintiff, Lola Heifetz (63), went to Dr. Robin Baradarian and The Brooklyn Gastroenterology and Endoscopy, PLLC on September 26, 2010 for a routine screening colonoscopy. Ms. Heifetz, of Ukraine descent, emigrated to the United States over thirty (30) years ago. She learned English, became a U.S. citizen, obtained her lab technician certificate, and started working as a lab technician at Maimonidies Medical Center. She worked at Maimonidies Medical Center for almost thirty (30) years until the day of the colonoscopy.
A colonoscopy is a screening and diagnostic tool used by gastroenterologists to evaluate the inside of the colon and identify ulcers, colon polyps, tumors, and areas of inflammation or bleeding. Performed under a mild form of anesthesia, a thin, flexible tube is used to examine the inner lining of the large intestine, i.e. the rectum and colon. The scope is inserted into the anus, through the rectum and then passed through the entire large intestine to the cecum. Passage of the colonoscope through the intestine is incredibly important, as improper handling of the scope could cause injury to not only the bowel itself, but vital organs outside the bowel including the spleen.
SPLENIC INJURY DURING COLONOSCOPY
Proper technique is especially crucial in the area of the splenic flexure, a normal, sharp curvature where the descending colon and transverse colon meet. The spleen is an organ in the upper far left part of the abdomen, just above the area of the splenic flexure and in close proximity to it.
The most common cause of splenic injury during colonoscopy is improper technique used during passing of the colonoscope through the splenic flexure.
If excessive forced is used by the gastroenterologist, tension placed on the splenocolic ligament can cause the spleen to become forcibly detached from the colon. When this occurs, the damaged spleen starts to hemorrhage. Excessive, uncontrolled hemorrhaging from the spleen may require it to be repaired laparoscopically or, depending on the extent of the bleeding and the patient’s hemodynamic instability, completely removed during an exploratory laparotomy.
The plaintiff claimed that during the colonoscopy, Dr. Bardarian used excessive force during the passage of the colonoscope through the splenic flexure. The plaintiff also claimed that Dr. Baradarian performed the colonoscopy in a hurried manner, thereby contributing to his use of improper technique. The plaintiff claimed that as a result of the negligent force used during the colonoscopy, the spleen was forcibly detached from the splenocolic ligament, causing it to rupture and hemorrhage profusely.
The rupture of her spleen caused Ms. Heifetz to not only hemorrhage from within the spleen, but from the outside capsule of the spleen into the peritoneal cavity. In the hours following her colonoscopy and as a result of the excessive blood loss and pain, Ms. Heifetz collapsed in her kitchen. She was brought by ambulance to Maimonidies Medical Center, where surgeons attempted to stop the hemorrhaging by placing a coil into the splenic artery. Despite this intervention, Ms. Heifetz continued to actively hemorrhage and show signs of hemorrhagic and septic shock. Ms. Heifetz was then brought emergently into the Operating Room where surgeons performed life-saving procedures to cut open her abdomen and remove her entire spleen. Ms. Heifetz remained hospitalized for 6 days, before being discharged to her daughter’s home to recover.
A vital organ, the spleen is responsible for both storage and purification of red blood cells needed for our immune system. It acts as both a filter for blood as part of our immune system, aiding in fighting off certain kinds of bacteria that cause pneumonia and meningitis, as well as a reservoir for platelets and white blood cells. Without her spleen, Ms. Heifetz is less able to fight out certain types of infection and disease. Moreover, she no longer has the blood reservoir that the spleen provides in the event of future blood loss. Ms. Heifetz claimed that as a result of the spleenectomy, she lived in fear for several years following her colonoscopy, afraid that if she left her home she could contract an illness. As a result, Ms. Heifetz claimed that as of the time of trial, she was dependent upon medication and therapy to overcome that fear. Ms. Heifetz also claimed that because of that fear, she was forced to stop working at the hospital. Finally, Ms. Heifetz has a permanent surgical scar from her breast bone to her belly button as a result of the exploratory laparotomy needed to emergently remove her spleen.
The plaintiff called Dr. Gerard Salen, a gastroenterologist who was one of the first to author articles for the GI community, alerting them to the risk of splenic rupture with the use of excessive force in the area of the splenic flexure. The defendant called Dr. Perry Gould, a gastroenterologist, and Dr. Danne Lorio, a surgeon, to defend the actions of Dr. Baradarian and negate the plaintiff’s claim that excessive force was used. Despite their being retained by the defense, both experts testified that they could not state whether or not the defendant used excessive force during the colonoscopy. Moreover, neither expert could point to any evidence the splenic rupture was a result of something other than the use of excessive force.
Prior to trial, the defendants took a “no pay” position with respect to settlement. After a 3 week trial and after only 45 minutes of deliberations, the jury returned a unanimous verdict in favor of the plaintiff. The jury awarded Ms. Heifetz $670,000.00 for her past pain and suffering, and $600,000.00 for her future pain and suffering.