Murtha photoUpdate: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette confirms report of surgical error

Rep. John Murtha's sudden death Monday may have been due to a surgical error, according to a source close to a congressman. Murtha was admitted to the hospital on Jan 31. after suffering an infection resulting from gallbladder surgery. He died days later.

"This should have been a really simple surgery. Laparoscopic gallbladder removal usually is no big deal," reported CNN's senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen. "Many times people don't even get admitted to the hospital."

But a source told CNN that the congressman may have died after his intestines were nicked during the procedure. "He went in for a routine minimally invasive surgery, was discharged, they hit his intestines, [he] was taken to the hospital two days later," the source told CNN.

"Nicking the intestines is a known complication of gallbladder surgery," Cohen added. "When you nick the intestines a person can get an infection and can die."

It's not unusual for complications to arise during routine surgery. In a recent survey at the Mayo Clinic, nine percent of doctors admitted making a major error during the last 3 months. Seventy percent of those doctors say that they were at fault for the error.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was able to confirm that Murtha died due to an infection caused when doctors nicked his intestines during surgery.

Mr. Murtha was first hospitalized with gallbladder problems in December. He had surgery Jan. 28 at the National Naval Hospital in Bethesda, Md. He went home, but was hospitalized two days later when complications developed. According to a source close to Mr. Murtha -- confirming a report in Politico -- doctors inadvertently cut Mr. Murtha's intestine during the laparoscopic surgery, causing an infection.


This video is from CNN's American Morning, broadcast Feb. 9, 2010.

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