The family of a 48-year-old tax attorney have settled their medical malpractice claim for $5 million against a health care provider who allegedly failed to diagnose the man’s symptoms of a pulmonary embolism when he was seen for a follow-up appointment after ankle surgery. The man had fractured his ankle at home on January 25, 2009 and had surgery on his ankle the same day at a local Maryland hospital. He was discharged to home in a cast and a follow-up appointment was scheduled for February 13, 2009.
When the man arrived for his follow-up appointment as scheduled, he was complaining that his cast was tight and that he was having difficulty breathing. A tight cast can be a symptom of deep vein thrombosis (blood clots in the deep veins) that can break off and travel to the lungs. Once in the lungs, the clots are called pulmonary emboli, which can restrict or block blood flow and can lead to death. Difficulty breathing is a classic symptom of a pulmonary embolism and a cast that becomes too tight is a classic warning sign of deep vein thrombosis.
Despite the man’s symptoms, the health care provider failed to perform any tests on February 13, 2009 that would have discovered his deep vein thrombosis that could have been treated effectively before the blood clot(s) traveled to the man’s lungs. Instead, the man suffered pulmonary and cardiac arrest less than 72 hours later and died from a massive pulmonary embolism, which was confirmed as a result of an autopsy.
The medical malpractice plaintiffs who filed the medical malpractice lawsuit were the wife, children, parents, and estate of the man.
Source: The Daily Record, August 6, 2012.
The risk of developing deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism in patients who have ankle and foot surgery is very small. In a study reported in 1998, 2,733 patients were evaluated for risk factors prior to surgery and for incidents following surgery. Of those patients, only 6 had deep vein thrombosis incidents, of which 4 had non-fatal pulmonary emboli. Nonweightbearing status and immobilization after surgery appear to increase the risk of deep vein thrombosis.
Although the risk of developing deep vein thrombosis leading to a pulmonary embolism after routine ankle surgery appears very small, health care providers must be vigilant to properly diagnose and treat their patients once a patient exhibits symptoms consistent with deep vein thrombosis.
Probably the last thing that would have entered the minds of the man and his family would be that the routine ankle surgery would be successful but the man would die from an avoidable condition that could have been treated and effectively resolved if he had received the proper and timely follow-up medical care in response to his complaints of a tight cast and difficulty breathing.
If you, a family member, a loved one, or a friend may be the victim of medical malpractice in Maryland or in another state in the United States, you should promptly seek the advice of a local medical malpractice attorney to secure your legal rights.
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