Date: 2018-03-11 03:21
June was rushed to hospital when a relation, a retired GP, said her symptoms suggested she had the potentially fatal biliary peritonitis — when bile leaks into the stomach, producing toxins that can lead to organ failure.
‘The General Medical Council supported our own review of her case, which found there was no concern regarding the skill and expertise of her surgeon.’
Unlike conventional surgery, which involves a large incision, in a keyhole operation the surgeon works through tiny incisions, guided by images transmitted from a camera inserted into the body. As the procedure is minimally invasive, the wounds heal faster.
In her case, the surgeon hadn’t closed the duct leading from her gall bladder, leaving bile leaking into her stomach. None of this was apparent when June was discharged from the Royal Cornwall Hospital, Truro, the next day.
‘A surgeon may have done hundreds of gall bladder operations, but they have to use a different technique with keyhole,’ he says. ‘It requires spatial awareness, depth perception, and an ability to see things from different angles looking at a screen.
‘Every tiny stage of the procedure needs to be checked. When complications occur during the keyhole procedure, it may be necessary to convert the operation to traditional surgery. But some surgeons may view that as a failure and will press on with keyhole.
Now June lay critically ill in the high-dependency unit after undergoing a keyhole operation to remove her gallbladder as a treatment for gallstones.
‘There is a whole new generation of surgeons brought up on doing keyhole. But this may mean they are getting less experience doing traditional surgery. So if there is a need to convert the procedure, it may require calling in a senior surgeon to help. That’s a mental hurdle for a surgeon.’
Although she successfully sued her hospital for negligence, she would like to see the surgeon involved struck off or re-trained.