Misread CT Scan Leads to Death and
$3 Million Settlement
2009 Medical Malpractice Trial Report
35 year-old woman dies from brain bleed
(subarachnoid hemorrhage) due to misread CT scan
The plaintiff’s decedent was a 35 year-old woman who died on 11/6/03 from a subarachnoid hemorrhage. At approximately 7:23 P.M. on 11/5/03, the patient arrived by ambulance to the Lawrence Memorial Hospital Emergency Department with an acute onset headache, which she reported as the “worst headache of life”, associated with nausea and vomiting. Her blood pressure was 210/98 and her pulse was 54. The ER doctor ordered a head CT at 7:50 P.M. which was read around 8:30 P.M. as normal.
Over the next few hours, the patient’s condition deteriorated and she became difficult to arouse. At 11:30 P.M., the ER doctor contacted the radiologist who read the CT scan and asked the radiologist to look at the CT scan again. At that point the radiologist noted a very small subtle subarachnoid bleed in the region of the basal cisterns. A repeat CT scan around midnight showed increased bleeding.
The patient was transferred to Beth Israel arriving at approximately 2:00 A.M. At that point, she met the criteria for brain death. She was pronounced dead that day.
The plaintiff was prepared to show that the radiologist’s failure to report the brain bleed on the first reading did not meet the standard of care and that the delay in diagnosis and treatment resulted in the patient’s death. The defendant was prepared to show that an earlier diagnosis would not have changed the outcome and that even if the bleed was reported at 8:30 P.M. the patient would still have died.
The case settled a month before trial for $3,000,000.
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