Removal of Wrong Portion of Colon
The Knoll Case
Mrs. Knoll was an 80 year-old mother of 13 children, who was retired and living with her husband, Ralph. In August of 2007, she went to see her PCP, Dr. Able, who noticed that she was having a change in her bowel habits. He then said that she should go get a colonoscopy by Dr. Baker at Sewickley Valley Hospital.
Dr. Baker performed a colonoscopy and found several polyps in the colon, and specifically noted a crescent-shaped polyp near the ileocecal valve, in the ascending colon. In his report, Dr. Baker noted that these polyps were suspicious and should be removed. Dr. Baker also noted that in the descending portion of the colon, there was diverticulitis and a small polyp. Dr. Baker sent all of the polyps to the pathology lab for review, and the pathology lab received the polyps to evaluate for potential cancer.
The pathology lab issued its report that there was a suspicious polyp in the ascending colon, and Dr. Baker reviewed it, and sent the report to Dr. Able for a recommendation for surgical removal of that portion of the colon.
Dr. Able then contacted a surgeon, Dr. Charlie, to perform the surgery on the colon. Dr. Able also dictated a long note where he told the surgeon, Dr. Charlie, that there was a polyp in the descending colon that had to be removed. This was a mistake because the polyp that needed to be moved was in the ascending colon.
Dr. Charlie received Dr. Able’s report, and the pathology report, and did not read it closely and scheduled Mrs. Knoll for surgery to remove the portion of the descending colon.
Mrs. Knoll did not know any of this, and was simply told that she needed a portion of her colon removed because of a suspicious polyp.
In September of 2007, Mrs. Knoll underwent surgery, and Dr. Charlie removed the descending colon, rather than the appropriate portion of the colon; the ascending colon. After surgery, Dr. Charlie sent the portion of the removed colon to the pathology department, and they reported that no potential cancer was found. So, Dr. Charlie went back to look and called Dr. Baker, who had done the colonoscopy, and Dr. Baker told him that he had removed the wrong portion of the colon.
After emerging from surgery, Mrs. Knoll was discharged from the hospital; however, she had a complication at her anastomosis site and was readmitted. At that point, Dr. Charlie told Mrs. Knoll about the mistake, that he had removed the wrong portion of the colon, and said that he would have to go back in and remove the other portion of the colon.
Because Mrs. Knoll underwent such an aggressive removal of her colon, she was required to wear a colostomy bag for several months until another doctor was able to reverse the procedure.
A lawsuit was filed, and the doctors denied that they did anything wrong. At his depositions, Dr. Charlie admitted that he removed the wrong portion of the colon, and a joint tort-feasor settlement was reached with Dr. Charlie. Dr. Able and Dr. Baker denied that they contributed to the confusion.
A jury was selected, and after jury selection, Dr. Able and Dr. Baker also reached a settlement for a substantial amount.