Medicolegal Issues

Did posthysterectomy hemorrhage cause woman’s brain damage?

Notable judgments and settlements


Did posthysterectomy hemorrhage cause woman’s brain damage?

A 42-year-old woman underwent elective subtotal hysterectomy to treat a large uterine fibroid. In the recovery unit, she had extremely low blood pressure and tachycardia and lost consciousness for 15 minutes. She was given a blood transfusion, but was not returned to the operating room for emergency exploratory laparotomy until 3 hours later. Surgery revealed a hemorrhage from the left uterine artery requiring ligation.


The hemorrhage caused hypoxia resulting in an anoxic brain injury with memory and concentration difficulties. The gynecologist and hospital staff were negligent in delaying emergency treatment.


Postoperative bleeding is a known complication of hysterectomy. The patient was at increased risk of bleeding because of the numerous blood vessels feeding the fibroid. A morphine reaction is believed to be the cause of her becoming unconscious. The patient had not sustained an anoxic or hypoxic brain damage because she was alert and oriented immediately after the damage allegedly occurred.


The Illinois jury deadlocked. The parties entered into a settlement agreement for a confidential sum before a mistrial was declared.

Related article:
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Choriocarcinoma diagnosis missed

A 25-year-old woman had a miscarriage. A follow-up test to measure the patient’s human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) hormone level test was not performed. The patient died from choriocarcinoma.


The ObGyn did not follow the standard of care: the patient’s hCG level should have been tested after the miscarriage. It is a well-known fact that an hCG level that does not return to zero after a miscarriage is cause for concern, especially from choriocarcinoma.


There was nothing that could have been done to save the woman’s life; choriocarcinoma is a quickly spreading cancer.


A $1,800,000 Massachusetts settlement was reached.

Related article:
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Bowel perforation during hysterectomy: $860,000 verdict

A 58-year-old woman underwent laparoscopic hysterectomy and was discharged the next day although she had not urinated or defecated. After eating solid food that evening, she experienced immediate vomiting, nausea, and abdominal pain. When she saw her ObGyn the next morning, he immediately hospitalized her. During the next 8 days in the hospital, she was unable to pass gas, was febrile, and was given antibiotics. On postoperative day 11, a general surgeon transferred her to the intensive care unit due to shortness of breath and tachycardia. During exploratory abdominal surgery, several abscesses and a 1-cm injury to the rectosigmoid colon were discovered necessitating a colostomy. The patient underwent 5 additional abdominal washout procedures and was hospitalized for 40 days. Colostomy reversal surgery occurred 8 months later.


The ObGyn never provided an explanation of what went wrong; the patient was told the hysterectomy was accomplished without incident. An expert colorectal surgeon stated that the perforation likely occurred within 24 hours of surgery and was probably caused by the electromechanical device used during surgery.


The perforation was caused by a sudden rupture of a diverticulum 10 days after hysterectomy. The injury was treated in a timely manner.


An $860,000 Virginia verdict was returned.

Related article:
How to avoid intestinal and urinary tract injuries during gynecologic laparoscopy

These cases were selected by the editors of OBG Management from Medical Malpractice Verdicts, Settlements & Experts, with permission of the editor, Lewis Laska ( The information available to the editors about the cases presented here is sometimes incomplete. Moreover, the cases may or may not have merit. Nevertheless, these cases represent the types of clinical situations that typically result in litigation and are meant to illustrate nationwide variation in jury verdicts and awards.

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