Articles Posted in Cardiac Malpractice

A Salt Lake City jury last month awarded $2.9 million to the family of a 55 year-old man who died after physicians failed to diagnose and treat a life-threatening heart condition.  After developing chest pains one evening – which quickly spread to his abdomen – the man presented to a clinic where he was seen by a Physician’s Assistant (PA).  The PA diagnosed him with constipation and discharged him with instructions to drink a bottle of over-the-counter magnesium citrate and take a suppository.

Nine days later, the man returned to the clinic after being awakened by sudden onset of sweating and severe heartburn which, again, radiated to his abdomen.  He also was found to have high blood pressure on exam.  Nevertheless, he was again diagnosed with constipation and instructed to increase his daily intake of fruits and vegetables and to follow up in two months.  Four days after this second visit to the clinic, the man passed away while at his home.  An autopsy determined that he had died of aortic dissection, a serious condition in which the inner layer of the aorta, the large blood vessel branching off of the heart, tears.

The lawsuit alleged that the healthcare providers at the clinic breached the applicable standards of acceptable medical care by, among other things, failing to perform a chest x-ray, failing to perform an EKG, and failing to send the man to the emergency room.  The jury found that the man was 30% at fault, presumably because he could have gone to an emergency room on his own but chose not to do so.

After eight days of testimony and fifteen hours of deliberations, an Atlanta jury this week awarded $45.8 million to a woman who suffered catastrophic and irreversible brain damage just days after giving birth.  Three days after her child’s birth, the woman suffered a heart attack while undergoing x-rays.  Although she was able to be resuscitated, she was without oxygen for approximately ten minutes and suffered an anoxic brain injury that has rendered her unable to care for herself in any meaningful way.

In the medical malpractice lawsuit, the woman’s lawyers claimed that the heart attack was caused by the healthcare providers’ failure to properly monitor her blood pressure in light of preeclampsia, combined with pulmonary edema, also knowns as fluid in the lungs.  The defense took the position at trial that the woman’s decline was more likely explained by pulmonary embolism – a blood clot that breaks off from one area of the body and travels to the lung – than pulmonary edema, and that what happened to the woman could not have been foreseen by the doctors who were charged with caring for her.  The Plaintiffs countered that the doctors failed to properly address the woman’s erratic blood pressure and allowed a dangerous buildup of fluid in her lungs that caused her heart to stop beating.

The jury’s award included $9.8 million in economic damages for the woman’s future medical care needs and $18 million each to the woman and her husband for their pain, suffering, mental anguish and emotional distress.

Earlier this month, a Baltimore County, Maryland jury awarded $4 million as the result of the alleged wrongful death of a 28 year-old man whose heart disease went undiagnosed.  The man was referred by his primary care physician to a cardiologist due to constant chest pain that had been ongoing for more than a year.  The cardiologist in March of 2012 diagnosed him with “atypical chest pain” and sent him on his way without conducting any further studies, according to the lawsuit.

The family alleged that the standard of acceptable medical care required that when the man presented with chest pain, a standard stress test be administered to evaluate for cardiovascular disease.  He returned in April for an echocardiogram and at that time still was experiencing ongoing chest pain.  The man died of a heart attack in July.  A subsequent autopsy concluded that the cause of death was cardiovascular disease.

The jury’s award included $3.75 million for non-economic damages for pain, suffering, mental anguish and emotional distress suffered as the result of the loss of a loved one.  That amount will be reduced to $887,500 under Maryland’s cap on such damages.  The award also included $162,00 for lost household services to the man’s seven year-old child and $9,000 for the cost of his funeral.  If you or a loved one were the victim of a medical mistake, call our experienced medical malpractice lawyers for a free consultation at 410-385-2225.

A Kentucky jury has awarded $2.2 million to a married couple after the husband’s pre-operative work-up went awry, resulting in the amputation of his right leg below the knee. In evaluating the man’s candidacy for a total knee replacement, a cardiac work-up showed a possible blockage in his coronary arteries. Accordingly, a coronary angiogram was performed.

A coronary angiogram a procedure that uses x-ray to determine if coronary arteries are blocked or narrowed, where they are blocked or narrowed and by how much. During the procedure, a catheter is inserted in your groin or arm and into an artery and up to the heart. Fluid is injected through the catheter so that arteries can be seen well on the x-ray and then x-ray photographs are taken as the fluid passed through the artery.

Approximately 16 minutes into the procedure it was determined that there was no blockage and that the previous test had yielded a “false positive.” Nevertheless, the procedure was continued for another 74 minutes. After the lengthy coronary angiogram, the man developed blood clots which traveled to his right leg, blocking the flow of blood to that limb and killing the tissue. As a result, the man’s leg was caused to be amputated below the knee. The award included $1.25 million for pain and suffering, $780,000 for medical expenses and $250,000 to the man’s wife for loss of consortium.

An aortic dissection is a serious condition in which the wall of the major artery carrying blood out of the heart – the aorta – tears. An aortic dissection can lead to aortic rupture or decreased blood flow to vital organs. Generally, symptoms of an aortic dissection come on suddenly and often include sharp, stabbing, tearing or ripping chest pain which moves to the shoulder, neck, arm, jaw and/or abdomen. The decreased blood flow to the remainder of the body caused by an aortic dissection can result in fainting, dizziness, sweating, nausea, pale skin, shortness of breath and an accelerated or slowed pulse.

When a patient presents with any combination of the above-mentioned symptoms, a cardiac event – including an aortic dissection – must be included in the differential diagnosis until definitively ruled out. A CT scan can easily be used to diagnose or rule out an aortic dissection but, critically, the CT scan must be performed with dye / contrast in order for the aortic dissection to be seen. Performing a CT scan without dye / contrast will prevent the physician from seeing the dissection, causing the physician to falsely believe that there is none.

An aortic dissection is a life-threatening condition that must be treated quickly. It can be managed with surgery if timely diagnosed but must be addressed before the aorta ruptures as statistics demonstrate that less than half of people with a ruptured aorta survive. The failure to timely diagnose and treat an aortic dissection can have catastrophic consequences for the patient up to, and including death.

Some busy surgeons are known to leave the operating room before the surgery is completed, leaving less-experienced doctors to finish. This can result in terrible consequences.

Recently, a 72-year-old man and his wife filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against a cardiac surgeon and a hospital alleging that the man’s surgeon left his open heart surgical procedure early. The patient, once active and in good health, has been bedridden in a vegetative state since the operation he underwent nearly two years ago. A copy of the article regarding the medical malpractice case can be found here.

According to the medical malpractice suit, the patient visited a prominent medical center for the repair of an ascending aortic aneurysm. A prestigious cardiac surgeon was scheduled to perform the surgery on April 2, 2012. Rather than finishing the procedure properly, the medical malpractice suit alleges that the surgeon left the operating room before the patient was stabilized and instructed a physician’s assistant to close the patient’s chest. Upon the surgeon’s exit, however, the patient’s health took a turn for the worse: his heart stopped beating as oxygen and blood rapidly escaped his body. The medical malpractice suit claims the surgeon raced back to the operating room to manually massage the patient’s heart, but it was too late – the damage already had been done. Subsequent investigations surrounding the alleged medical malpractice also revealed that the physician’s assistant who was instructed to remain in the operating room was not qualified to complete the procedure.

As a medical malpractice lawyer, I have successfully handled a number of cases involving failure to timely diagnose and treat heart attacks. As more of America’s baby boomers are reaching the retirement age, more are suffering from medical conditions that require adequate treatment and care by competent physicians and medical staff. Individuals rely on these medical professionals to act properly and render the appropriate care to reduce the chances that a significant medical problem occurs.

A physician’s first and most crucial step in helping a patient suffering from any type of medical problem is a proper diagnosis. Once a proper diagnosis is made, the physician and medical staff can determine the appropriate steps to take to ensure the patient receives the necessary and adequate treatment and care for their condition. Unfortunately, when a doctor fails to diagnose and treat a patient properly, the patient can suffer serious and sometimes permanent injuries.

Recently, this was the case for a Louisiana man who has filed a medical malpractice suit against his doctor. The patient’s medical malpractice claim alleges that his physician’s failure to take the proper steps following discovery of severe heart conditions led to the patient suffering a heart attack and, as a result, becoming permanently disabled.

In early 2003, a Pennsylvania pharmacist died of a heart attack while at work. In 2009, a jury found his family doctor negligent and awarded the man’s widow $4 million. Later, after determining the delay in the conclusion of the case was improper, the presiding Judge awarded the man’s widow an additional $1.2 million in damages. Last month, the Pennsylvania Superior Court upheld that $5.2 million award in the medical malpractice case.

This case is an example of the catastrophic results of a doctor failing to correctly diagnose and treat his patient. The man went to see the doctor four days before his death as a result of unexplained chest pain, jaw pain and anxiety. The doctor advised him that these symptoms were the result of anxiety. However, the man’s attorneys argued that the the doctor made a critical error by failing to take into account the following: the man was overweight, he had high cholesterol, he had high blood pressure and he had a history of heart disease in his family. On the day of his death, the man again contacted the doctor as a result of his symptoms persisting. By the time the doctor returned his call, the man was already in cardiac arrest.

Ultimately, jurors agreed that when the doctor analyzed the man’s complaints in light of the risk factors he had, the doctor should have immediately sent the man to an emergency room because the mans’ symptoms were suggestive of a heart attack. The autopsy results further confirmed this determination as it showed heart damage, specifically indicating that the man had a heart attack a few days before his death.

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