A cut or clipped bile duct is serious form of medical malpractice that can have devastating consequences for the patient. A cut bile cut can cause jaundice, intense stomach pain, cholangitis (i.e. an infection of the bile ducts) and a host of other awful side effects.
Serious side effects occur from a cut bile duct because your bile duct system and gallbladder (collectively known as the biliary tree) are involved in the drainage and delivery of bile from the liver into the intestine. The bile duct has an extrahepatic portion (outside the liver) and intrapancreatic portion (within the pancreas) which means there are plenty of opportunities for a careless doctor to nick, cut, or clip the bile duct during a surgical procedure.
Bile production is one of the most vital functions of the liver and it is essential for the proper absorption of nutrients from the intestine, according to the University of Southern California Department of Surgery. When a doctor cuts the bile duct, this causes bile to seep out into your bloodstream. This is where the horrific side effects mentioned above start to set in.
A cut or nicked bile duct routinely occurs when a doctor or surgeon attempts to conduct a laparoscopic gallbladder surgery. This type of surgery is performed on over half a million people each year and, since it is less invasive than a traditional surgery, patients get to go home the same day or within 24 hours of the operation. However, when a bile duct is clipped during a laparoscopic gallbladder surgery, it means the patient may not immediately notice the injury until a few hours later when they are in excruciating pain. The risk of death associated with a cut bile duct routinely stems from (a) the severity of the cut and/or (b) waiting too long to return to the hospital to get the cut repaired.
Even if a patient gets the injury treated quickly, the intense pain associated with this injury can cause a person to spend days or weeks in the hospital recovering. Some patients are never the same after this injury.
To learn more about clipped bile duct injuries, take a look at our free consumer guide discussing the top 5 surgical errors. This guide was written by a Virginia medical malpractice lawyer who has handled these types of cases for over 30 years.
Juris Doctor Candidate, 2013
George Mason University School of Law