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Bowel Injuries Claims


You may have the basis of a claim for compensation if you have suffered a ruptured bowel as a result of abdominal surgery or if there has been a delay in diagnosing a ruptured bowel.

What Is A Ruptured Bowel?

A ruptured or perforated bowel is a hole in the stomach, small intestine or large intestine.

The contents of the digestive system will leak into the abdominal cavity through this hole. This leads to inflammation – often referred to as peritonitis.

A ruptured bowel is considered a medical emergency as it can lead to an abdominal abscess, infection, sepsis, internal bleeding and death. 

Causes of A Ruptured Bowel

The most common causes of a bowel rupture are:-

  • a blockage of the intestine;
  • trauma to the bowel;
  • a surgeon accidentally puncturing the bowel during surgery to any of the organs around the bowels.
  • adhesions in the abdomen

After any type of surgery in the abdomen, bands of tissue called adhesions may form between abdominal tissues and organs. Normally, tissues and organs are slippery and move easily as the body moves. If adhesions form they can make tissues and organs “stick” together. Most adhesions don’t cause problems. But sometimes they can cause pain in the abdomen. Rarely, they can cause a part of the bowel to twist or kink, pulling it out of place so that it becomes blocked or ruptures.

The most common part of the bowel to rupture is the small intestine. The next most common area is the stomach followed by the large intestine.

When the bowel is ruptured it allows food or faeces to leak from the bowel into the abdomen or for air to seep into the abdominal cavity. This can lead to severe inflammation and infection of the abdomen which rapidly can spread and become serious or even fatal if not diagnosed and treated.

A ruptured bowel needs to be detected early to ensure that the repair can be made by a surgeon as soon as possible.

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A ruptured bowel is usually diagnosed by way of an X-Ray or a CT scan which shows air that has escaped into the abdominal cavity.

Symptoms Of A Ruptured Bowel

Symptoms of a ruptured or perforated bowel can include a high temperature, sickness and extreme pain.

  • severe abdominal pain or cramping, usually of rapid onset and will affect the entire abdomen and sometimes radiate towards the back
  • tenderness of the abdomen
  • sickness (vomiting)
  • fast pulse
  • feeling faint
  • bloating
  • loud gurgling sounds from the bowel
  • swelling of the stomach / abdomen
  • inability to pass wind
  • constipation.

If you have severe pain you should contact a doctor straight away, as this could be a sign of a blocked bowel.

Treatment For A Ruptured Bowel

The consequences of a ruptured bowel can be very serious. Surgery is needed urgently to repair the hole in the bowel and also to clean out the abdomen of any food or faeces that has leaked out of the bowel.

An x-ray or CT scan will be used to confirm the presence of a rupture and the exact location thereof. A patient with a ruptured bowel will usually present a higher white blood cell count than a healthy patient.

In some cases surgery may involve a section of the damaged bowel being removed. A temporary colostomy or ileostomy (surgical procedures that bring one end of the large or small intestine out through the abdominal wall) may be needed.

After surgery you will usually be prescribed a course of strong antibiotics to ensure that there are no infections caused by the leaked material.

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Does a Ruptured Bowel Amount To Medical Negligence?

There are two main occasions when you may be able to make a claim for medical negligence compensation following a ruptured bowel. These are:

  • Misdiagnosis; or
  • Surgery causing the rupture


If you are admitted to hospital, for example following an accident, and are complaining of abdominal pain, have a fever and are showing other signs of a ruptured bowel, you should be referred for an X-Ray or CT Scan.

If the surgeon does not refer you for an X-Ray or CT Scan or delays in doing so and you suffer injury as a result, you may be able to make a claim for compensation as a result of the surgeon’s misdiagnosis.


If the bowel is ruptured by a surgeon during abdominal surgery this does not automatically mean he has been negligent. There may be the basis of a claim if either

  • The surgery was carried out negligently; or
  • The surgeon does not notice that the bowel has been damaged at the time of surgery or within a reasonable period of time after surgery.