Untreated Pulmonary Embolism Death: $1.5 Million Settlement in NH

2020 Medical Malpractice Case Report
By Attorney Nicholas D. Cappiello

Cardiologist fails to recognize and report evidence of pulmonary embolism on ultrasound, patient dies days later of cardiopulmonary arrest

A 58-year-old man (plaintiff's decendent) died from a cardiopulmonary arrest following an untreated pulmonary embolism. His prior medical history included diabetes and severe ischemic colitis.

In June 2017, the patient was hospitalized for ongoing severe ischemic colitis from which he had been suffering for several weeks.

Over the next 2 days, he was treated for his infectious/ischemic colitis, dehydration, and hyperkalemia. On the second day of his admission, the plaintiff’s decedent underwent a cardiac evaluation for ongoing elevations in his heart rate (tachycardia).

A cardiac ultrasound was reported as normal by the defendant cardiologist; however, the plaintiff contended that the ultrasound showed evidence of an abnormality concerning for a pulmonary embolism that the defendant cardiologist failed to appreciate and report. Specifically, the ultrasound showed a right ventricle with hypokinesis of the free wall and hypercontractility of the apex, which the plaintiff contended should have raised suspicion for the presence of a pulmonary embolism.

At that time, the plaintiff’s decedent did not have the typical symptoms of a pulmonary embolism.

The following day, a CT angiogram of the chest was performed after EKG abnormalities and dropping oxygen levels were detected. The CTA revealed evidence of a large saddle pulmonary embolism. Emergent treatment with blood thinning medications was started and preparations were underway to place an IVC filter to prevent additional blood clots from traveling to his lungs. Unfortunately, he continued to deteriorate and passed away as a result of the pulmonary embolism before further treatment could be initiated.

The plaintiff’s claim was that the cardiac ultrasound the day before the decedent’s death showed evidence of a pulmonary embolism, which the defendant cardiologist failed to recognize and report. Had the pulmonary embolism been diagnosed that day, the plaintiff contended that it would have been appropriately and effectively treated and more likely than not his death would have been prevented.

The defendants maintained that the cardiac ultrasound was properly interpreted and reported and nothing the defendant did or failed to do caused the plaintiff’s decedent’s death and that his sudden cardiopulmonary arrest and death were not preventable.

The case was settled for $1,500,000.00.

Lubin & Meyer attorneys Andrew C. Meyer Jr. and Nicholas D. Cappiello represented the plaintiff in this lawsuit.

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