Anoxic brain injury medical malpractice case settles 2 weeks before trial

Plaintiff who suffered anoxic brain injury receives $3 million settlement

Medical Malpractice Trial Report, 2007

In September 2002, the plaintiff presented to the hospital complaining of chest pain with shortness of breath. A chest CT scan with contrast was performed, and revealed a right pulmonary artery embolus, small right pleural effusion (accumulation of fluid between the layers that line the outside of the lung), and right lower lobe linear atelectasis (collapse).

Anticoagulation treatment was initiated with Heparin and Coumadin. After discussion with the plaintiff it was decided he should be transferred to a tertiary care center for further evaluation and treatment. Plaintiff was transferred and admitted with a diagnosis of pulmonary embolism. Heparin therapy was continued. Overnight the plaintiff was transferred to the MICU (Medical Intensive Care Unit), because of progressive hypoxia, enlarging effusion on chest x-ray, and acute renal failure. Subsequently, his temperature increased to 103 degrees. It was thought that he had developed an acute bacterial pneumonia, and intravenous antibiotic therapy was initiated. Heparin therapy was continued. The next day the defendants were asked to perform a procedure on his chest which was deferred for one day due to the plaintiff’s blood clotting levels. The next day the plaintiff’s condition had not improved so the defendants decided to go ahead with the procedure.

The procedure was performed on 9/18/02 at 6:00 p.m., under ultrasound guidance. Towards the end of the procedure, the plaintiff became pale and hypotensive, the procedure was aborted, and the plaintiff was resuscitated with intravenous fluids and fresh frozen plasma and was transferred back to the MICU. While in the MICU the plaintiff went into shock and respiratory distress which eventually required intubation. He was aggressively volume resuscitated with intravenous fluids, fresh frozen plasma, and packed red blood cells. Hematocrits drawn at 6:14 p.m. and 6:47 p.m. were decreased to 26.9 and 26.2, respectively, indicative of significant blood loss. Medication was administered to stabilize his blood pressure, the surgical team inserted a chest tube, and a thoracic surgeon was consulted. The plan was to take the plaintiff to the operating room for evaluation. As they were about to take him to the operating room, his blood pressure suddenly dropped, and he was rushed to the operating room emergently. While in the OR the plaintiff suffered a cardiac arrest. Chest compressions were initiated, and simultaneously, a very rapid bilateral thoracotomy was performed. The aorta was completely flaccid, and the heart was filled, but asystolic. The physicians performed internal cardiac massage until the plaintiff was able to maintain his own blood pressure. It was felt that the plaintiff had suffered an intra-abdominal injury and hemorrhage during the chest procedure which was explored and treated surgically before being taken back to the ICU. The plaintiff suffered a very complicated course from that point forward. A tracheostomy was placed due to his continued ventilatory needs, and a PEG tube (feeding tube) was placed for ongoing nutritional needs. He remained on antibiotic therapy for continued fevers, and positive sputum cultures. Neurology consultation was obtained to evaluate his decline in mental status and it was felt that the plaintiff had suffered some degree of brain injury.

The Plaintiff was eventually discharged on 11/21/02 with a diagnosis of brain injury. He underwent inpatient rehabilitation until 1/20/03. From there the plaintiff was discharged home with home-based services. Presently, he continues to suffer from neurologic deficits, and requires supervision. He is unable to work.

The defendants were prepared to present expert testimony that they were not negligent and that they complied with the standard of care at all times in the performance of their surgical procedure. The defendants further contended that the unfortunate outcome was not connected to the procedure, but rather that the plaintiff had suffered a cardiac arrest which could not have been anticipated and that nothing the defendants did or failed to do was causally related to the plaintiff’s injuries.

The case settled two weeks before trial for $3,000,000.

Lubin & Meyer attorneys represented the plaintiff in this brain injury lawsuit.

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