Mesenteric ischemia or bowel ischemia occurs when there is a sudden reduction in intestinal blood flow that does not meet the metabolic demands of the bowel. When caught early, bowel ischemia can usually be managed. Untreated mesenteric ischemia can cause bowel injuries and death. Often the failure to diagnose mesenteric ischemia can lead to a medical malpractice lawsuit in Maryland.
Bowel ischemia is a medical condition where the blood flow to the intestines is blocked. This can be a result of several factors, including the buildup of fatty deposits in the blood vessels, a blood clot, or an injury to the blood vessels in the intestines. When the blood flow is blocked, the tissues in the intestines can become damaged or even die, leading to serious complications such as perforation, infection, or even sepsis.
Unfortunately, bowel ischemia is a condition that can often be caused by medical malpractice. When a healthcare provider fails to diagnose or treat bowel ischemia in a timely manner, the patient can suffer serious, life-threatening consequences.
Often Caused by Artherosclerosis
The most common cause of bowel ischemia is atherosclerosis, which is the buildup of fatty deposits in the blood vessels. When these deposits accumulate in the blood vessels that supply the intestines, they can narrow or even block the vessels, reducing or cutting off the blood flow to the intestines. This can cause the tissues in the intestines to become damaged or die, leading to serious complications.
Thrombosis is the formation of a blood clot inside a blood vessel. This can occur in any blood vessel in the body, including those in the abdomen. If a blood clot forms in an artery that supplies blood to the intestine, it can cause a condition known as mesenteric ischemia. This occurs when the blood flow to the intestine is disrupted, which can result in insufficient oxygen and nutrients being delivered to the intestine.
Thrombosis and bowel ischemia can occur together. For example, if a blood clot forms in an artery that supplies blood to the intestine, it can result in mesenteric ischemia, which can cause bowel ischemia. This can result in serious harm to the patient, including the death of intestinal tissue, serious infections, and other complications.
Healthcare providers need to be on alert to the connection between thrombosis and bowel ischemia, as prompt diagnosis and treatment can help to prevent serious harm to the patient.
Injury to Blood Vessels
Finally, bowel ischemia can also be caused by injury to the blood vessels in the intestines. This can occur during surgery or other medical procedures, and can lead to serious complications if the injury is not recognized and treated in a timely manner. This can occur due to a variety of factors such as blood clots, arterial embolism, or atherosclerosis.
When blood flow to the intestines is reduced, the tissue can become damaged or die, leading to serious complications such as sepsis, peritonitis, and even death. In some cases, the injury to the blood vessels may be caused by medical negligence, such as a delay in diagnosis or failure to provide appropriate treatment.
Failure to Diagnose Bowel Ischemia
Bowel ischemia misdiagnosis is a common form of medical malpractice that can result in serious harm to the patient. Here are some additional details about bowel ischemia misdiagnosis:
- Symptoms are often mistaken for other conditions: The symptoms of bowel ischemia, such as abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting, can often be mistaken for less serious conditions, such as indigestion or a gastrointestinal virus. As a result, healthcare providers may not take the patient’s symptoms seriously and may not order the necessary diagnostic tests to identify bowel ischemia.
- Delayed diagnosis can result in serious harm: Bowel ischemia is a serious condition that requires prompt treatment to avoid serious harm to the patient. A delay in diagnosis can result in the progression of the condition and can lead to serious complications, such as perforation, infection, sepsis, and bowel obstruction.
- Failure to order appropriate diagnostic tests: To diagnose bowel ischemia, healthcare providers should order appropriate diagnostic tests, such as imaging studies, blood tests, and other diagnostic tests, as needed. If the healthcare provider fails to order these tests, they may not be able to accurately diagnose the condition, leading to a misdiagnosis.
- Failure to properly interpret test results: If the healthcare provider does order appropriate diagnostic tests, they must also properly interpret the results. If the results are misinterpreted or ignored, the healthcare provider may not diagnose the patient with bowel ischemia, even if the test results indicate the presence of the condition.
- Miscommunication between healthcare providers: In some cases, bowel ischemia misdiagnosis can occur due to miscommunication between healthcare providers. For example, if the patient sees multiple healthcare providers, the information about their symptoms and test results may not be properly shared or communicated between providers, leading to a misdiagnosis.
Classic Failure to Diagnose Bowel Ischemia Lawsuit Scenario
A patient visits their primary care physician complaining of abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. The doctor performs a physical examination and orders a few routine tests but fails to order any imaging studies or further diagnostic tests. The doctor diagnoses the patient with a mild case of indigestion and prescribes some antacids. The patient leaves the clinic feeling somewhat relieved but the symptoms persist.
A few days later, the patient returns to the clinic with worsening symptoms. The doctor again performs a physical examination and orders some blood tests but fails to order any imaging studies or further diagnostic tests. The doctor diagnoses the patient with a gastrointestinal virus and prescribes some antiviral medication. The patient leaves the clinic but their symptoms continue to worsen.
A few days later, the patient is rushed to the emergency room in severe pain and with a high fever. Upon examination, it is revealed that the patient is suffering from bowel ischemia, which has resulted in a perforated intestine. The patient undergoes emergency surgery to repair the perforation and remove any damaged tissue. However, due to the delay in diagnosis, the patient suffers from serious infections and complications, which result in a prolonged hospital stay and a significant decline in their overall health.
In this scenario, the primary care physician’s failure to properly diagnose and treat the patient’s symptoms was a clear case of medical malpractice. By failing to order imaging studies or further diagnostic tests, the doctor failed to identify the serious underlying condition of bowel ischemia, which ultimately resulted in significant harm to the patient. A medical malpractice lawsuit could be filed in this case to seek compensation for the patient’s injuries and losses.
What Is Chronic Mesenteric Ischemia?
Chronic mesenteric ischemia is an uncommon condition. It is characterized by progressive narrowing of two of the three major intestinal arteries.
What Are the Symptoms of Chronic Bowel Ischemia?
The biggest symptom of bowel ischema is abdominal pain that is made worse by eating. So you often see weight loss because of the fear of eating.
The problem in diagnosing this condition is the many of the same symptoms you also see with gallbladder disease, pancreatitis, intestinal obstruction, peptic ulcer disease, inflammatory bowel disease and even irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
What Causes the Pain from Mesenteric Ischema?
The intestine is working overtime during eating which causes a demand for increased blood flow. The circulation is impaired because there is an inadequate flow of blood to the intestine. So the intestine becomes ischemic. This can cause great pain. When you stop digesting food, the pain resolves. This sometimes fools the doctor into believing the symptoms are resolving
What Can an Abdominal Arteriogram Do?
An abdominal arteriogram would show the blockage and the presence of acute mesenteric ischemia.
Is There a Difference Between Ischemic Colitis and Mesenteric Ischemia?
There is a lot of overlap between the ischemia colitis and bowel ischemia. The key difference between ischemic colitis (IC) and mesenteric ischemia is that with IC the colon becomes ischemic. In bowel ischemia, the bowel wall becomes ischemic.
Treatment Challenges Treating Bowel Ischemia