Medical Verdicts

Emergency surgery leads to compartment syndrome


Undisclosed County (Minn) District Court

After a complicated labor and emergency cesarean, a 25-year-old woman began to bleed and developed uterine atony. As a result, a hysterectomy was performed. After the surgery, the physician diagnosed fluid overload and peripheral edema and ordered treatment with furosemide.

In recovery, the patient complained of severe leg pain. Upon examination, the on-call physician assessed her condition as mild anterior compartment syndrome. He ordered elevation and therapeutic hose, along with a course of morphine. Despite these measures, the woman continued to complain of severe leg pain.

The attending physician called in an orthopedist. On examination, the orthopedist did a pressure check of the patient’s right leg and found a compartment pressure of 55 mm Hg. The patient underwent an emergency fasciotomy in which 75% of the muscle of the anterior compartment was removed. She now suffers from decreased strength and control in her right foot.

In suing, the woman claimed that the physicians did not diagnose compartment syndrome in a timely fashion.

The physician contended that compartment syndrome is very rare following a cesarean and argued that the accepted standard of care did not require an Ob/Gyn to include compartment syndrome in the differential diagnoses. The doctor also noted that the woman had made a good recovery and maintained that delayed diagnosis did not cause her condition.

  • The case settled for $142,500.
The cases presented here were compiled by Lewis L. Laska, editor of Medical Malpractice Verdicts, Settlements & Experts. While there are instances when the available information is incomplete, these cases represent the types of clinical situations that typically result in litigation.

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