Case #2006: Failure to Diagnose Lung Cancer

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On May 29, the Plaintiff’s Decedent, who was 78 years old at the time, presented to the hospital and had a chest x-ray which showed a right lung mass which represented an early lung malignancy. However, in direct contravention of the standards of care, the radiologist misinterpreted the films and reported the chest films as normal – presenting no evidence of active disease.

The following February the Plaintiff’s Decedent returned to the hospital to obtain pre-operative chest films ordered by the Defendant neurosurgeon prior to a laminectomy procedure.  The radiologist interpreting the films indicated that there was a nodular density in the right lung. When the radiologist compared the February 21 films with the films obtained at the hospital on May 29 (referred to hereinabove), he indicated that the abnormality — the mass in the right lung — was on the films taken on May 29.  However, in violation of the standards of care, the radiologist indicated that the mass found on both films could have represented a “nipple shadow” and recommended additional films with “nipple markers.”  In violation of the standards of care, the Defendant radiologist never directly contacted the Defendant neurosurgeon by telephone or in person to advise him of the findings.

Additionally, the Defendant neurosurgeon, who received the report indicating the presence of a mass on the right lung, never followed up in any manner whatsoever–in violation of the standards of care.

Further, on March 10, the Plaintiff’s Decedent presented to the hospital for back surgery.  The Defendant neurosurgeon, the Defendant anesthesiologist, the Defendant nurse anesthetist and agents, servants and/or employees of the hospital all failed to locate and review the radiology report and film of February 21, prior to the surgery.  Had they done so, the fact that an abnormality was present would have been confirmed, and appropriate follow-up could have been provided.

It was not until September 20, that the Plaintiff’s Decedent first made complaints of dyspnea on exertion.  Chest films were immediately obtained on September 21, and the lung mass was diagnosed.  A CT scan of the chest was obtained on September 27, confirming the presence of right lung mass which was suspicious for malignancy.  Thereafter, on October 15, fiber-optic bronchoscopy with bronchial washings and a mediastinoscopy with biopsy of the mediastinal and right hilar lymph nodes was completed at another institution.  Surgical pathology revealed adenocarcinoma of the right lung.  Accordingly, the Plaintiff’s Decedent went on to be treated with radiation as well as chemotherapy.  However, due to the ongoing negligence of the Defendants, the disease was left to grow, extend and ultimately metastasize, resulting in the Plaintiff’s Decedent’s untimely demise on February 16.

The hospital settled prior to trial.  Additionally, the radiologist who interpreted the May 29, film was dismissed during trial.

The jury returned a verdict again the Defendant neurosurgeon in the amount of $691,565.00.