Laparoscopic surgery is widely recognized as one of the great advances in modern medicine.
It's done with a small, lighted camera which allows doctors to watch as they insert small instruments through tiny incisions. There's usually less pain and smaller scars, and patients recover more quickly.
But in a small number of cases, patients are paying a horrible price.
Lynn Legore of Waukegan was told she'd be "in and out" when she went to the hospital to have an ovarian cyst removed through laparoscopy. But ten hours later, her mother had to bring her back to the hospital because she was in horrible pain.
Doctors told her the pain was probably a normal one and sent her home with pain killers.
But when the pain persisted, she underwent surgery again four days later and that's when doctors found a punctured bowel that was spilling infectious bacteria into her stomach.
She ended up suffering through 14 surgeries and was in a coma for 45 days.
"It was like waking up to a nightmare. Not believing that I had been out for 45 days, and that all of this had occurred just from one simple procedure. It almost took my life," she said.
Legore sued the owners of Highland Park Hospital and her surgeon, Dr. Edward Lee, for pain, suffering, and medical bills topping a million dollars. The case was recently settled for an undisclosed amount and neither the hospital nor Dr. Lee would discuss the case.
But Legore's attorney, Kevin Burke, says her story illustrates a little-known risk of the popular laparoscopic procedures.
"She has gone through two years of significant pain," Burke said. "We had one case where the woman died as a result of it. The infection was so bad that they were never able to get her back."
Burke said 99 percent of the time, the surgery is safe and benefits patients. But he also has represented seven patients over the past decade, where bowels or bladders were perforated due to laparoscopic surgery. He said it happens because laparoscopes give surgeons a limited view of where they're going, But making matters worse, he says, is that when patients return to the emergency room complaining of pain, ER doctors and the surgeons themselves don't immediately recognize what's going on, and that the surgery was to blame.
"I think there is a combination of both ego and denial that you are responsible for that outcome and perhaps unwillingness to accept that we are all not perfect," Burke said.
Dr. Mohan Airan pioneered the use of laparoscopic surgeries back in the 1980's. He said advances in technology, like better cameras, have dramatically reduced injuries to the point where over 30 percent of all general surgeries are now done laparoscopically.
Recent problems, he says, may be due to patients being sent home too quickly, for insurance reasons. And laparoscopic surgeons must be honest about their own mistakes.
"[A surgeon should] always blame yourself and say, 'Even though I am very good maybe there was some kind of a problem that I missed. And if you do that, the chances are you will detect it much faster," Dr. Airan said.
Dr. Airan said that when considering laparoscopic surgery, patients should ask surgeons how many times they've performed specific procedures and how much training they've had. He also said that some hospitals have special equipment that helps doctors make sure they haven't nicked a bowel before they sew you up.