Sunday, August 24, 2008

Adding insult to surgical injury

MY WIFE Wendy recently underwent a routine colonoscopy at a teaching hospital in the Boston area. This effective and sometimes lifesaving procedure can locate and remove cancerous polyps in the colon (intestine). But Wendy was unlucky and experienced a medical injury that only occurs in one of 1,000 patients.

And as the hospital staff struggled to deal with the consequences of that injury, my wife and I got a first-hand look at the difficulty healthcare providers have in controlling patients' pain.

During her procedure, the colonoscope - a long, flexible, lighted tube - broke through the wall of her colon, creating a nickel-sized tear in the intestine. The injury could be seen immediately on the monitor. Wendy's doctor explained what had happened, apologized, and rushed her to the operating room for emergency surgery to prevent dangerous internal infections. The two-hour surgery was successful, and left Wendy with a 4-inch abdominal incision.


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