Baby’s Cardiac Arrest/ Brain Damage Lawsuit Settles for $2 Million

2010 Medical Malpractice Trial Report

Radiologist misreading of obstetrical ultrasound leads to cardiac arrest and brain damage of newborn

At four days of life on May 2, 2003, the minor plaintiff suffered profound cardiogenic shock, renal failure, and a hypoxic ischemic brain injury due to his previously undiagnosed cardiac anomaly.

On October 10, 2002, the minor plaintiff’s mother was seen for her first prenatal assessment. The provider performing the assessment on October 18, 2002, noted that the patient’s historical risk status included a heart murmur since 1982.

An obstetrical ultrasound was performed on December 12, 2002 to verify dates and for a fetal anatomic survey. The ultrasound was interpreted by the defendant radiologist. The defendant reported that no fetal anomalies were seen and visualization of a 4-chamber heart was made.

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The plaintiffs’ radiology expert who specializes in ultrasonography was shown the ultrasound from December 12, 2002. The expert was prepared to testify that the four chambers of the heart could not be adequately visualized on this ultrasound, and thus the heart could not be properly evaluated. Based on this inconclusive finding in conjunction with the plaintiff’s personal health history of a congenital heart murmur, the standard of care required a follow-up obstetrical ultrasound to achieve adequate visualization of the heart’s four chambers in order to complete the fetal anatomical survey. This was never done and the plaintiff went on to deliver her baby boy on April 28, 2003. The minor plaintiff was healthy at birth with Apgars of 8 and 9 and no complications were noted. Unfortunately, because the physicians who delivered the baby were not aware of any issues with the child’s heart, he was discharged home with his mother after 2 days.

On May 2, 2003, the minor plaintiff returned to the Hospital with a more than 12-hour history of feeding poorly and hypothermia, and was in cardiogenic shock. His initial pH was 6.7 with a lactate level of 18, and he had evidence of renal failure and liver dysfunction requiring intensive medical support and stabilization. He was intubated, resuscitated, and quickly transferred to a tertiary care children’s hospital where an echocardiogram identified hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS) with other complications and a brain MRI showed hypoxic ischemic changes.

After stabilization of his presenting cardiogenic shock, renal failure and liver dysfunction, the minor plaintiff underwent stage I or a 3 part procedure to repair his heart. The surgery was successful however the minor plaintiff began to display evidence of right-sided weakness related to his hypoxic ischemic brain injury. Over the course of the next year, the minor plaintiff underwent the final 2 Stages to repair his cardiac defect. Both cardiac procedures were successful; however, his physical and cognitive deficits from the brain injury are permanent. At the present time, the minor plaintiff continues to require medication to control seizures related to his brain injury. He suffers from right sided weakness and does not use his right hand. He is now 7 years old but does not write due to his physical limitation with the right hand. In addition, he drags his right leg with affects his ability to walk. He requires the assistance of a 1:1 aide in school and receives therapies through school system.

Trial was scheduled for July 2010. The plaintiffs’ experts were prepared to testify that had the defendant properly read the obstetrical ultrasound, the minor plaintiff’s cardiac condition would have been diagnosed and his mother would have been referred to a cardiologist before delivery. Had this occurred, the minor plaintiff never would have been discharged from the hospital after birth and the necessary medications and surgeries would have been initiated before he suffered cardiogenic shock and a brain injury.

The defendant maintained throughout discovery that he was able to visualized the 4 chambers of the heart, and that the defect was not diagnosable. The case settled for Two Million Dollars in the week before trial.

Lubin & Meyer attorneys represented the plaintiff in this medical malpractice lawsuit.

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