On September 6, 2003, a 13-year-old boy was brought to a Chicago hospital’s emergency room due to a fever and generally not feeling well. Significantly, the boy had a prior history of bacterial endocarditis in 1996 (bacterial endocarditis is a serious and sometimes fatal condition where there is an infection in the lining of the heart, heart valve, or blood vessel) and was born with a congenital heart defect that had required him to have implants. Both conditions made him more susceptible to developing bacterial endocarditis in the future.
During the September 2003 emergency room visit, the boy was given Motrin, his fever was significantly reduced, and he told his medical providers that he was feeling much better. Without ordering the appropriate medical tests for endocarditis, the boy was discharged from the emergency room. The boy was brought back to the emergency room two days later, with a fever and an abnormally high heart rate. Medical tests were then ordered and he was diagnosed with severe infective endocarditis.
The boy had heart surgery to address his very serious condition but his brain was deprived on oxygen during the surgery when the infected area began pouring blood out of his heart. He suffered a serious and permanent brain injury due to the lack of oxygen to his brain. As a result, the boy suffered loss of vision in his left eye, very limited use of the left side of his body, difficulty in understanding his speech, and requiring him to use a wheelchair.
While maintaining that its staff did not breach the standard of care in their treatment of the now 19-year-old during the first emergency room visit and that they were not at fault for the boy’s injuries, the Chicago hospital issued a statement regarding the settlement that said it “could not comment on details of the case due to patient privacy laws. The case was resolved so the patient can receive the support and medical care needed. By settling, the Medical Center is not admitting fault in the care or treatment of this person.”
In a study of hospitalized patients with infective endocarditis in the United States from 1998 through 2009, the researchers determined that hospital admissions for infective endocarditis rose from 25,511 in 1998 to 38,976 in 2009 (an increase of 2.4% annually); the 2009 rate was 12.7 per 100,000 population. The study found that the proportion of endocarditis patients with intra-cardiac devices rose from 13.3% in 1998 to 18.9% in 2009. The mortality rate was stable at 14.5% and the cardiac valve replacement rate was also stable at 9.6%. However, there was an increase in some serious complications from infective endocarditis: in 2009, 13.3% suffered a stroke or CNS infection and 5.5% suffered myocardial infarction. The mean age of patients hospitalized with infective endocarditis rose from 58.6 in 1998 to 60.8 in 2009.
The most common identified pathogen was Staphylococcus aureus (which increased from 37.6% in 1998 to 49.3% in 2009; 53.3% were MRSA). Streptococci were involved in 24.7% of the cases; gram-negatives were involved in 5.6% of the cases; and, Candida species were involved in 1.0% of the cases.
The study concluded that endocarditis is more common in the United States than previously thought (previous estimates were 4 in 100,000 population annually) and that it is steadily increasing.
If you or a loved one suffered an infection that was not properly treated in a hospital or by another health care provider, you should promptly contact a local medical malpractice attorney in your U.S. state who may investigate your medical malpractice claim for you and represent you in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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