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Death Due To Pulmonary Embolism After Orthopedic Surgery

Our Baltimore law firm routinely investigates potential medical malpractice cases in which a person has died as the result of a pulmonary embolism after what should have been a routine surgery.

Orthopedic surgery and subsequent immobility from such surgery puts patients at an increased risk of developing blood clots in the veins of their legs following surgery. These blood clots, called “deep vein thrombosis,” can cause swelling in the leg where the clots exist. As the clots continue to grow, small portions of the blood clot can break off and travel to the lungs, at which point they are called “pulmonary emboli.” Because of this risk, patients with deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary emboli are often given blood thinners which prevent the clot from growing large enough to break off and travel to the lungs, killing the patient.

Two classic warning signs of a blood clot in the legs that can break off and travel to the lungs are cast tightness and shortness of breath. A patient who complains of these symptoms following surgery should immediately undergo an ultrasound and be given blood thinners which are used to stop the growth of the clot and minimize the chance that it will grow large enough to break off and travel to the lungs or elsewhere.

The failure to timely recognize and treat a pulmonary embolism is an entirely preventable medical mistake, especially in circumstances where a patient who has recently undergone surgery complains of cast tightness and shortness of breath. In 2012, our law firm obtained a settlement of $5 million in such a case, which is believed to be the largest settlement ever in Maryland in a case involving a pulmonary embolism.

The death of a patient following a routine surgery can be caused by a variety of factors. Given the complexity of such cases, they should be evaluated only by an experienced and seasoned medical malpractice attorney.