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Steve Silverman
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Inexperienced Gastric Bypass Surgeons: Anticipated Spike in Litigation Claims

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With thousands of obese Americans opting for gastric bypass surgery (bariatric surgery) a growing collection of research suggests that this increasingly popular operation can have a hidden risk: inexperienced surgeons. According to physicians who have tracked the results of their cases, patients of surgeons who have done fewer than 70-100 operations have complications more often and a greater chance of death from those complications than patients of more experienced doctors. These results are exacerbating worries that surgeons are rushing into the field without adequate training. Some hospitals allow surgeons to operate after one weekend seminar, during which they do a handful of cases under the guidance of a more experienced surgeon.

The fears over inadequate training and the resulting lawsuits mirrors the ripple effect that followed the onset of gallbladder removal surgeries in the 1990s. When surgeons began removing gallbladders laparoscopically in the early 1990s, hundreds of patients who had suffered complications from an operation long considered routine filed malpractice claims against their surgeons. Many of these doctors had not undergone much training. The surge in claims occurred three years after the first laparoscopic gallbladder removal, and malpractice specialists expect a similar spike in claims from bariatric surgery patients and their families.

Last fall, patients died after gastric bypass surgery in Boston, Providence, and Iowa. In at least the Boston and Providence cases, surgeons performed the operations laparoscopically. The chiefs of surgery at both hospitals involved said the surgeons were experienced, but subsequent investigation demonstrated otherwise. At Iowa Methodist Medical Center in Des Moines, seven patients have died after gastric bypass surgery in the past two years, six of them in 2003. One surgeon involved in the cases voluntarily stopped performing the surgery.

If you or a loved were injured during gastric bypass surgery, please feel free to contact the firm directly to discuss your potential medical malpractice action at 1-800-385-2243.