Anesthesia Aspiration Death: $3M Settlement

2017 Medical Malpractice Trial Report

Failure to diagnose bowel obstruction causes death of 25-year-old woman from aspiration during anesthesia induction

The plaintiff’s decedent was 25 years old, married with no children, when she died from aspiration during anesthesia induction as a result of vomiting due to an undiagnosed bowel obstruction. She had previously undergone an appendectomy and a gastric bypass with approximately 200 pound weight loss.

The patient presented to the Emergency Department with complaints of abdominal pain in her lower abdomen, nausea and vomiting for several days. Her abdomen was tender, but was soft, without guarding, or rebound. She was admitted for further evaluation, hydration, pain and nausea control.

The following day, Friday, she was alert, oriented and able to follow commands, but was drowsy. She was afebrile with a WBC of 7.2. Her diet included clear liquids. The plan was for her to undergo laparoscopic cholelithiasis on Monday.

Over the weekend, she was alert and oriented, afebrile, with no signs/symptoms of infection. She had positive bowel sounds, but had not had a bowel movement in 2-3 days. Her vital signs were stable and she was voiding. She was ordered for clear liquids, but had persistent nausea and vomited approximately 30 cc’s bilious matter. She was able to ambulate independently. A progress note reflects that she was in no acute distress.

On Monday, the patient was taken to the operating room for diagnostic laparoscopy. She was given propofol to begin induction of anesthesia and immediately aspirated massive amounts of feculent emesis. She was emergently intubated and flipped back supine, but became hemodynamically unstable. The surgery was cancelled and she was transported to the surgical intensive care unit in critical condition.

Her condition continued to deteriorate. She was made comfort measures only, and died a few days later. An autopsy confirmed her cause of death was aspiration during anesthesia induction.

The plaintiff claimed the defendants failed to recognize and appreciate the patient’s increased risk factors for, and signs and symptoms of, a bowel obstruction; failed to perform abdominal imaging to rule out a bowel obstruction; and failed to properly place a nasogastric tube prior to surgical exploration.

The case settled shortly before trial for $3,000,000.

Lubin & Meyer attorneys Andrew C. Meyer, Jr. and William J. Thompson represented the plaintiff in this bowel perforation wrongful death lawsuit.

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