What Is a Perforated Bowel?

“Gastrointestinal perforation is a hole in the wall of the gastrointestinal tract.” (1) A perforation can be a cut, puncture, or tear. (2)

Other names for the condition include: (3)

  • Ruptured bowel.
  • Intestinal perforation.
  • Perforation of the intestines.

How Does Bowel Perforation Malpractice Happen?

A bowel perforation can occur during some medical procedures, such as: (4)

  • Endoscopy — a surgeon inserts a special device with a camera attached to look at your intestines.
  • Colonoscopy — a surgeon inserts medical instruments inside the colon to look for signs of cancer.

During either procedure, the surgeon may accidentally cut the bowel. “Intestinal perforations are the most common surgical emergency that occurs worldwide.” (5)

Symptoms and Consequences of Bowel Perforation

You may suspect your bowel is perforated if you experience these symptoms: (6)

  • Severe abdominal pain, which may start shortly before the perforation.
  • Fever.
  • Bloody bowel movements.

Left untreated, bowel perforation can lead to a dangerous condition called sepsis. If left untreated, this infection can lead to organ failure or death. (7)

Your intestines can “contain numerous bacteria and other organisms.” When your bowel is perforated, the material inside can spread to the outside. Sepsis can develop in nearby tissue but may also travel throughout your body. (8)

If you or someone you know is suffering from bowel perforation, a lawsuit can help get the compensation you deserve.

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Bowel Perforation Diagnosis and Treatment

A bowel perforation is a medical emergency. If you suspect your bowel has been perforated, you need to seek treatment right away.

To diagnose this condition, your doctor may need to order a variety of tests: (9)

  • X-rays.
  • Computed tomography scan (CT scan).
  • Blood tests.

Generally, surgery is necessary to repair a perforation anywhere in the gastrointestinal tract, “particularly if it is in the bowel.” In addition, if sepsis has developed, you must receive fluids and antibiotics quickly. There is no time to waste. (10)

Colostomy or Ileostomy

Sometimes, a person with a perforated bowel may need to undergo a colostomy or ileostomy. This surgery allows “the contents of your intestines to empty into a bag, through a stoma, a hole created in your abdomen.” This procedure may be temporary and would give your intestines time to heal. (11)

Later, you would undergo a second surgery. During this additional surgery, your doctor would reattach your intestines. The goal would be to repair the damage so you would “no longer need to eliminate your waste through the stoma.” (12)

However, sometimes the initial colostomy or ileostomy surgery would need to be permanent. (13)

Treating Sepsis

To survive sepsis, early, aggressive treatment is critical. You need close monitoring and treatment in a hospital. Doctors may need to take lifesaving measures to stabilize your breathing and heart function. (14)

Doctors may give you broad-spectrum antibiotics. These medications are given intravenously (IV) and are intended to be effective against a variety of bacteria. (15)

You may also receive intravenous fluids. These are usually given within 3 hours of being diagnosed with sepsis.

Doctors may give you other medications as well: (16)

  • Vasopressors, to help raise blood pressure.
  • Insulin, to help keep your blood sugar levels stable.
  • Drugs, to improve your immune system response.
  • Corticosteroids in low doses.
  • Painkillers.
  • Sedatives.

You may also need to receive supportive care, including oxygen or a machine to help you breathe. In addition, you may need dialysis if your kidneys are weakened. (17)

Sometimes, surgery is necessary. Doctors may attempt to remove “sources of infection, such as collections of pus (abscesses), infected tissues or gangrene.” (18)


Long-standing rules regarding liability for medical malpractice govern how physicians and other medical providers must conduct themselves when diagnosing and treating patients. If a doctor perforated your bowel during surgery, the perforation alone does not mean you can sue for medical malpractice. (19)

The “plaintiff must show that he or she sustained damages that were caused by the failure of the physician to take due care, defined as customary practice of physicians in good standing with the profession, or a significant minority of such physicians.” (20)

You must show the bowel perforation was a direct cause of the surgeon’s negligence.

Are you suffering from a perforated bowel due to a surgeon’s negligence? You may be eligible for compensation.

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Hiring a Lawyer and Filing a Lawsuit

If you were injured and suffered serious injuries at the hands of a doctor, hospital, or other facility in New York, you need to consult with a reputable personal injury attorney. Choose an attorney licensed to practice in the state of New York and with extensive experience in handling medical malpractice cases there.

Each state has its own laws, statutes of limitation, and other regulations regarding negligence, liability, and medical malpractice. You need to find a local law firm with a proven track record of winning and a team you can rely on to give you the necessary legal guidance.

Once you have hired the right firm for you, your attorney handles all of the legal steps necessary to achieve the best possible outcome.

How W&L Can Help

Weitz & Luxenberg is based in Manhattan and our attorneys have been handling medical malpractice cases in New York for decades. If you were severely injured due to your doctor’s negligence, or if a loved one died due to a bowel perforation, we can help you.

One of our knowledgeable attorneys can provide you with legal guidance. You may be able to seek compensation.

Our attorneys have a solid history of winning cases. Here are examples:

  • $2.35 million settlement — A young mother developed symptoms of pancreatitis and sought help at multiple hospitals as her conditioned worsened. Ultimately, she died of sepsis without receiving the care she needed.
  • $2.2 million settlement — A single mother had a tonsillectomy performed by a specialist. She later developed complications, sought help at an ER, and was misdiagnosed and dismissed. She died shortly afterwards.
  • $1.1 million settlement — A 70-year-old man died because his gastroenterologist failed to tell him he had colon cancer, so it went untreated for more than a year. Ultimately, the man sought help at an ER and was admitted to the hospital, but it was too late. He died of complications from the cancer.