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Severed Common Bile Duct During Gallbladder Surgery

CATEGORIES: Surgical Errors Other Cases CASE LOCATION: Allegheny Co., PA. CLASSIFICATION: Substantial Recoveries

The Wehnine Case

In this case, we represented Kelli Wehnine in her lawsuit against a surgeon and hospital after the surgeon botched her cholecystectomy surgery and completely severed her common bile duct.

Kelli Wehnine, 32-years old, sought treatment at the Defendant Hospital Emergency Department due to generalized abdominal pain and right upper quadrant abdominal pain. A CT scan of the thorax with contrast and a HIDA scan demonstrated acute cholecystitis and a cystic duct obstruction. She was admitted for observation and surgical consultation.

The next day, the Defendant Surgeon performed a laparoscopic cholecystectomy with an intraoperative cholangiogram. As a result of the Surgeon misinterpreting the intraoperative cholangiogram, he misidentified the common bile duct as the cystic duct, clipped it, and completely severed it. Following the dissection, the Surgeon suspected that he cut the wrong organ but instead of confirming his suspicion, he kept the patient overnight for observation.

The next day, when the patient’s condition was deteriorating, she was transferred to another hospital for testing to confirm or rule out a biliary injury and to be treated by another surgeon. At that hospital, diagnostic testing – which included an ERCP, pancreatogram, and biliary sphincterotomy - demonstrated that the Surgeon had in fact dissected and clipped the common bile duct. Thereafter, another surgeon performed a surgery to explore the biliary system and repair the dissected common bile duct. It was then that surgical clips, placed by the Defendant Surgeon, were found transecting the common bile duct.

As a result, Ms. Wehnine had to have a Roux-en-Y hepaticojejunostomy which is a major surgery to reconstruct the biliary system and re-route the digestive tract. Since this reconstructive surgery, Ms. Wehnine experiences continued diarrhea, stomach cramping, nausea, early satiety, and other digestive problems. In addition, she now is at an increased risk for strictures and other serious complications.

The defense in the case, as with every botched cholecystectomy, is that it was a “risk of the procedure”. Another way that the Defendants planned on defending the case was to try and shift the jury’s focus away from the medicine and onto the patient’s personal life and problems that she had encountered in her past due to her bipolar disorder diagnosis.

One week prior to the scheduled jury trial, the case settled for a substantial amount.