On August 29, 2013, a Missouri medical malpractice jury awarded $10,831,155 to the family of a 34-year-old woman who died after a routine cardiac catheterization in February 2011. The woman left behind her husband and three children, ages 5, 9, and 11. The woman had gone to her doctor due to bronchitis but tests at that time indicated possible cardiac issues. She was scheduled to have a cardiac catheterization to investigate her possible heart problems.
During the routine cardiac catheterization that found the woman’s heart to be healthy, the doctor dissected one of her coronary arteries, which is a rare event. While dissection of a coronary artery is a known complication of cardiac catheterization, its frequency is reported to be between 0.008 and 0.20% of diagnostic catheterizations and percutaneous coronary interventions, although the true incidence is probably higher because cardiac catheterization complications tend to be unreported. Source
What Is Coronary Artery Dissection?
The coronary arteries are comprised of three layers called the intima, the media, and the adventitia. Dissection of the coronary artery results in separation of the layers of the arterial wall, creating what is called a false lumen. The separation may be between the intima and the media, or between the media and the adventitia. Bleeding into the false lumen can impinge upon the true lumen of the coronary artery, impairing blood flow and causing myocardial ischemia, infarction, or sudden death.
Coronary artery dissection can occur spontaneously or as a consequence of chest trauma, cardiac surgery, coronary angiography, coronary intervention, or as extension of aortic dissection.
According to the Missouri medical malpractice lawsuit, the woman’s coronary artery was disrupted during her cardiac catheterization that resulted in disruption of the blood supply to her heart, leading to her death. The woman was not taken to surgery for more than a half hour. The medical malpractice lawsuit alleged that the woman’s doctors committed medical negligence by failing to take timely and appropriate actions to treat the woman’s condition.
The Missouri medical malpractice jury voted 11 to 1 to award the woman’s family compensatory damages that totaled $10,831,155, but did not award punitive damages. While the defendants stated after the verdict, “Our sympathy continues to go out to the Dodson family,” they further indicated that they would pursue “post-trial relief, including post-trial motions and appeal.” The plaintiff’s lawyer stated after the verdict was rendered, “We were pleased that this victory was rendered for the Dodson family, but there was no celebration.”
Cardiac catheterization procedures are live-saving diagnostic and treatment procedures for many thousands of people in the United States each year. When done by experienced cardiologists in proper medical facilities, they are relatively safe procedures the vast majority of the time but they do come with inherent risks. Most of the time, the risks of cardiac catheterization are far-outweighed by the benefits of the procedure. It is important to discuss your cardiologist’s training and experience in performing cardiac catheterization before agreeing to the procedure.
If you or a loved one were injured (or worse) as a result of cardiac catheterization, you should promptly consult with a local medical malpractice attorney in your U.S. state who may investigate your cardiac catheterization claim for you and represent you in a cardiac catheterization negligence claim, if appropriate.
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