Medical Verdicts

Appendectomy leads to preterm birth


Undisclosed County (Calif)

On 5 separate occasions over 2 weeks, a woman at 23 weeks’ gestation reported abdominal pain, which her clinicians attributed to round ligament pain. A complete blood count performed just prior to those 2 weeks revealed a white blood count of 18,800. However, the patient’s health-care providers never reviewed the results.

The following week, the woman presented to the hospital’s emergency department, where she was diagnosed with appendicitis.

An appendectomy was performed, after which the patient—then at 26 weeks’ gestation—went into labor. Her infant has since been diagnosed as mildly mentally retarded.

The mother contended that her white blood cell count should have prompted a consultation with a general surgeon, which would have led to an appropriate workup for appendicitis.

The defendant claimed that even if the appendicitis had been recognized, the fetus would not have survived surgery performed during the mother’s 23rd week.

  • The plaintiff was awarded $1.3 million at arbitration.
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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