Splenic Artery Cut During Surgery: $1.5M Wrongful Death Settlement

2022 Medical Malpractice Case Settlement
Hampden Superior Court, Massachusetts
By Attorney Robert M. Higgins

Failure to recognize splenic artery injury during surgery leads to death   

Case background

The decedent was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in June of 2014. He underwent surgery with the defendant a few weeks later on July 2, 2014. The tumor was removed and the surgery appeared to go well. The decedent was admitted to the floor around 7:00PM.

Post surgical symptoms

By 11:00PM, the decedent started to complain of abdominal pain. He also had increased bloody discharge coming from his drains. His heart rate and respiratory rate were also noted to be elevated. There was no notification to the surgical team by the defendant nurse of any of these changes. 

Delay in notifying surgical team

By 4:00AM, the nurse noted further elevation in the decedent’s heart rate and respiratory rate and he complained of 10/10 abdominal pain. The surgical team was finally paged and the decedent was given pain medication but no physical assessment was performed.

Emergency surgery and death

At 6:00 AM, a rapid response was called as the decedent’s blood pressure plummeted and he stated that he felt as if he was going to pass out. He was evaluated immediately by the surgical team and the decision was made to bring him to surgery emergently for suspected bleeding. Once the abdomen was opened, it was found that he was bleeding from a “blow-out” of his splenic artery. The decedent coded in the operating room and the providers attempted to resuscitate him but it was unsuccessful.

Artery to spleen cut during surgery

It was determined that the decedent had lost approximately 5 liters of blood. He was pronounced dead in the operating room. After the decedent had passed, the defendant surgeon wrote that the splenic artery had been cut during the original surgery but that it wasn’t bleeding at that time so the injury wasn’t noticed.

Lawsuit claims surgical negligence

The plaintiff retained a surgical expert who was of the opinion that the defendant surgeon was negligent for injuring the splenic artery. The expert was also critical of the nursing care of failing to report problems overnight to the surgical team. It was his opinion that he would not have died if treated properly.

The case settled a few weeks before trial for $1,500,000.

Lubin & Meyer attorney Robert M. Higgins and Andrew C. Meyer, Jr. represented the plaintiff in this medical malpractice lawsuit.

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