Nearly twenty years ago, a patient in Missouri underwent a hysterectomy with lymph node dissection. Shortly after this procedure, she developed lymphedema, or swelling of the legs. This condition required her to undergo physical therapy and medical monitoring for more than a decade. Several years after she was released from monitoring, the patient began experiencing pain in her left leg and foot again. She proceeded to consult several doctors about the pain, and eventually saw an orthopedic surgeon. The patient described her symptoms as numbness, tingling and redness in her foot. The orthopedic surgeon diagnosed her with lymphedema again and other related neurological issues, and recommended she follow up with her neurologist.
The patient followed instructions and underwent several neurological studies and continued to see numerous physicians regarding her condition. However, after about one year, the pain did not subside and she visited the hospital again. At this time, she was diagnosed with phlegmasia cerulean dolens, a severe form of deep vein thrombosis – commonly known as a severe blood clot in her leg. Due to this condition, and the length of time that had passed without treatment, the patient’s left leg required amputation from above the knee down several days after this diagnosis.
The patient initiated a medical malpractice suit against the orthopedic surgeon for failing to diagnose or treat the condition, and for failing to refer her to a vascular surgeon who may have been able to treat the blood clot. Specifically, the medical malpractice complaint alleged that a doctor who saw the bluing and other conditions around the patient’s foot, coupled with her severe pain and decreased ability to move her foot, should have referred her to a specialist for further evaluation. By failing to do so, the patient argued, the orthopedic surgeon was negligent and did not exercise the degree of care ordinarily used by a member of the profession under these circumstances.