Case #4052 Doctor Negligence - Failure to Diagnose Aneurysm Resulting in Death
On January 6, the Plaintiffs’ Decedent, age 48, began to experience severe, burning chest pain, radiating into his neck and jaw with shortness of breath and sweating (diaphoresis). He proceeded to the emergency room at the hospital, arriving at approximately 1:25 p.m.
The Plaintiffs’ Decedent advised hospital personnel of his signs, symptoms, and medical history which included two prior angioplasties. He specifically indicated, however, that the pain he was suffering was not anything like the angina pain he had suffered in the past. Further, he stated that the pain started while he was at rest and was rated as 10 out of 10 — the most intense pain that can be suffered. When his vital signs were taken, he had an elevated blood pressure of 183/106, indicating severe hypertension.
At approximately 1:30 p.m., an EKG was performed which was normal. Sublingual nitroglycerin was administered twice for the possibility of angina due to ischemia or decreased blood flow to the heart muscle. The medication had no effect. At 2:00 p.m., Mylanta was administered for possible gastritis with no effect.
At 2:35 p.m., the Defendant was contacted to see the patient. The Defendant is a cardiologist whose responsibility was to diagnose the Plaintiffs’ Decedent condition. At the time the Defendant was contacted, the Plaintiffs’ Decedent was admitted to the intensive care unit, and was administered morphine within five minutes for extraordinarily intense chest pain.
At 3:00 p.m., Plaintiffs’ Decedent was seen by the Defendant. At that time, the Defendant confirmed Plaintiffs’ Decedent cardiac history and entire presentation, with EKG results. The Defendant’s “diagnosis” was “atypical chest pain – likely GI secondary to dyspepsia.” In other words, despite Plaintiffs’ Decedent presentation, which included the most severe chest pain possible, the Defendant negligently diagnosed his condition as indigestion.
Thereafter, the Defendant ordered absolutely no additional tests and/or studies to make a proper diagnosis, and actually discharged Plaintiffs’ Decedent from the intensive care unit with a diagnosis of indigestion. The Defendant advised Plaintiffs’ Decedent to see a gastroenterologist the following week for his indigestion.
The Defendant discharged Plaintiffs’ Decedent at approximately 5:15 p.m. At approximately 6:00 p.m., Plaintiffs’ Decedent was home sitting at his dining room table when he suddenly clutched his chest and collapsed. An ambulance transported him back to the Hospital where he was ultimately admitted under the care of Defendant and regained consciousness such that he was capable of following commands.
When Plaintiffs’ Decedent initially entered the emergency room at 1:25 p.m. and was seen by the Defendant, he had an aortic dissection which had not progressed to the point that any permanent or irreversible damage had occurred.
When Plaintiffs’ Decedent came to the emergency room and was seen by the Defendant, between 1:35 p.m. and 5:15 p.m., he was absolutely, neurologically normal. His normal neurologic condition at that time indicated that the dissection had not extended beyond the ascending aorta, and had not involved any of the vessels coming off the main arch supplying blood to the brain. None of the organs such as the brain, liver, kidneys, etc. had suffered any compromised blood flow. Accordingly, there was no irreversible damage during any of those hours at the Hospital.
It was not until Plaintiffs’ Decedent returned home after being negligently discharged by the Defendant that the dissection extended, compromising blood flow to the brain and other organ systems. At that time, the force of the blood created a gross delamination or separation of the layers of the aorta, so that much of the blood was diverted into the extended, large false channel, and was not flowing to the brain and other organs.
After re-admission, the Defendant requested that Plaintiffs’ Decedent be seen by a pulmonary specialist, and a gastroenterologist. Amazingly, even upon Plaintiffs’ Decedent’s return to the Hospital, when he was near death due to the aortic dissection which had extended since his discharge from the Hospital, the Defendant still failed to entertain the proper diagnosis. The Defendant requested the gastroenterologist to see the patient for a possible “abdominal catastrophe.” It was the gastroenterologist who, after examining the Plaintiffs’ Decedent advised the Defendant to obtain a CAT scan and rule out a dissecting aneurysm. Thus, it was the consulting gastroenterologist, and not the Defendant cardiologist, who made the appropriate cardiac diagnosis, and ultimately had the diagnosis confirmed by CAT scan.
However, it was not until 10:15 p.m. that Plaintiffs’ Decedent finally had the CAT scan which definitively diagnosed the aortic dissection which had extended. Thereafter, he was transferred to the hospital for surgery which proved too little and too late. Subsequently, Plaintiffs’ Decedent was declared brain dead by a specialist in neurology at 6:45 p.m. on January 8.
Plaintiffs’ Decedent died leaving his wife and minor son.
A Circuit Court returned a verdict for the Plaintiffs in the amount of $2.1 Million.