Radiologist's Mistake: $11.5 Million Verdict

2019 Medical Malpractice Verdict

Misread chest x-ray results in failure to diagnose enlarged heart causing IV fluids to stress 18-month-old girl's heart resulting in cardiac arrest and brain damage.

June 6, 2019 — Middlesex Superior Court

Summary: Lubin & Meyer PC is pleased to report that attorneys William J. Thompson and Lynn I. Hu have obtained a verdict in the amount of $11.5 million in a medical malpractice trial on behalf of their client. The lawsuit claimed that a radiologist at Newton-Wellesley Hospital was negligent in his misreading of a chest x-ray of 18-month old Framingham girl, mistaking myocarditis for pneumonia, leading to treatment of fluids leading to heart attack and permanent brain injury.

Medical Malpractice Trial Lawyer's Report

Radiologist fails to report enlarged heart on toddler’s chest x-ray, leading to cardiac arrest and permanent neurological injuries

By William J. Thompson, Attorney for the Plaintiff

On April 12, 2009, Anna Coelho, 18 months old, was taken to Newton-Wellesley Hospital Emergency Department with complaints of vomiting, loss of appetite, and little to no urine output. A chest x-ray was performed and interpreted by the defendant radiologist. Although the defendant’s radiology report noted a prominent mediastinum (the area of the chest that contains the heart), he dismissed the finding as likely caused by under-inflation of the lungs during the x-ray and concluded that the patient likely had bronchiolitis or atypical pneumonia.

Based upon the radiologist’s report, the physicians at Newton-Wellesley Hospital admitted the plaintiff and treated her for pneumonia and dehydration, administering several boluses of saline solution. Mere hours after her admission, the plaintiff’s condition deteriorated and she suffered respiratory distress, requiring intubation and emergency transfer to the pediatric ICU at Massachusetts General Hospital. Following her transfer to Boston, the plaintiff suffered a cardiac arrest, resulting in several minutes of pulseless activity and requiring 45 minutes of resuscitative efforts. A biopsy of the plaintiff’s heart ultimately confirmed that she had myocarditis, an inflammation of her heart muscle caused by infection. The plaintiff was transferred to Boston Children’s Hospital and later Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, where she remained hospitalized until the end of August 2009. Today, as a result of her anoxic brain injury, the plaintiff remains significantly behind in her development and requires several forms of therapy in and out of school.

The plaintiff presented evidence at trial, through expert testimony, that the plaintiff’s heart was abnormally enlarged on her chest x-ray and that the standard of care required the radiologist to accurately identify and report this finding and recommend further diagnostic studies, such as an echocardiogram, to evaluate and diagnose the patient’s cardiac condition. The plaintiff further produced evidence that had the enlarged heart been appropriately identified and reported, the plaintiff would have undergone an echocardiogram, her myocarditis would have been diagnosed and treated, and more likely than not, she would not have suffered heart failure and cardiac arrest which resulted in the severe and permanent neurological injuries with which she lives today.

Specifically, the plaintiff presented evidence at trial that the treatment of myocarditis requires the withholding of fluids so as to prevent overloading and overworking the heart muscle. The plaintiff’s treating physicians at Newton-Wellesley Hospital testified that had the radiologist correctly identified an enlarged heart on the plaintiff’s chest x-ray, they would have withheld fluids and considered myocarditis as a possible cause of the plaintiff’s presenting symptoms.

The trial took ten days, and the jury deliberated over two days, returning a verdict in the amount of Eleven Million, Five Hundred Thousand Dollars ($11,500,000.00), before interest. The award included $3,700,000 for pain and suffering, $2,200,000 for lost earning capacity, and $5,600,000 for the cost of personal care needs.

The Boston Globe also reported on this verdict:
Jury awards $11.5 million to Framingham girl in medical malpractice suit

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