Tubal Ligation: Risks, Malpractice and Lawsuits
A discussion of health risks associated with tubal ligation, and your legal options if something goes wrong.
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Tubal litigation is a surgical procedure that is designed to permanently prevent pregnancy, by closing the fallopian tubes. The procedure is fairly simple and is effective as contraception as soon as the surgery is complete. There is a low mortality risk associated with tubal litigation -- about 3 per 100,000 surgeries -- but there are known health risks. We'll examine those risks in this article, and we'll also discuss when an unsuccessful tubal ligation procedure may be grounds for a valid medical malpractice claim.
How a Tubal Ligation Procedure is Done
There are a number of methods through which a tubal ligation may be carried out; the three most common being laparotomy, minilaparotomy, and laparoscopy, which access the fallopian tubes via an abdominal incision. Vaginal incision access to fallopian tube procedures is a bit more invasive and includes procedures such as coloptomy and culdoscopy. In all of these procedures, once the tubes are reached they are closed via a number of methods including clipping, cauterization, and placement of rings that close the tubes.
After the patient is prepped, appropriate anesthesia is administered. The particular type of anesthesia administered will be based on the method the doctor will be using, but options usually include general anesthesia or local anesthesia with light sedation.
Recovery from tubal litigation via an abdominal incision is relatively quick and after 48 hours of bed rest patients can resume most normal everyday activities, with the exception of strenuous activity and heavy lifting. Since each person reacts differently to surgery and medication, at least a full week should be scheduled for recuperation. Residual pain in the area of the procedure is to be expected and can range from mild to moderate.
Vaginal incision tubal litigations carry a longer recuperation time with an average hospital stay of 4 days and between 2-4 weeks of at home recuperation time.
Risks of Tubal Ligation
Risks that are commonly associated with tubal ligation include the following:
- anesthesia complications
- pelvic infections
- bleeding from uterine tubes
- perforation of the uterus
- bladder and bowel injuries, and
- increase in a patient’s susceptibility to tubal or ectopic pregnancy.
Negligence and Injury from Tubal Ligation
As with any surgery, there are known risks, and there is the possibility that medical negligence can result in injury to the patient. Lack of proper pre-surgery screening can increase the risk of pelvic infections. Negligence in tubal ligation can also result from a doctor’s lack of familiarity with or incorrect use of the equipment utilized to perform the surgery, from an error in performing the procedure itself, from the provision of sub-standard follow-up care, and even unsanitary conditions before, during, or after the procedure.
Medical Negligence and Malpractice Suits
The most common kind of lawsuit filed over tubal litigation is a "wrongful birth" action, which is made after the surgery isn’t successful and the patient becomes pregnant again. Also common are cases of negligent performance of the surgery, which can lead to perforation, and inflammation of the lining around the abdominal organs.
In order to bring a viable medical malpractice case, it's not enough to show that something went wrong during the tubal ligation procedure. A claimant needs to show that the health care professional deviated from the acceptable medical standard of care in treating the patient, and also show that such deviation caused the patient some measurable harm. (Learn more about the medical standard of care and how an expert medical witness can establish malpractice.
Also as part of any medical malpractice case, damages must always be deemed a reasonable result of the practitioner's negligence and of the injury that the patient suffered. The kinds (and amounts) of damages available in a case will be very specific to the facts and the nature of the treatment, but categories include:
- physical pain and suffering
- mental suffering and emotional distress
- loss of time/earnings and impairment of earning capacity
- medical expenses
- loss of enjoyment of life
- injury related expenses, and
- loss of consortium.
Learn more about common surgical mistakes.