A 39-YEAR-OLD WOMAN’S SECOND CHILD WAS BORN by cesarean delivery. The mother died the next day from a pulmonary embolism.
ESTATE’S CLAIM Physicians and nurses at the hospital were negligent in failing to recognize the mother’s risk factors for pulmonary embolism, including obesity, being over age 35, and hypertension. They failed to ensure that compression boots were in place and working prior to delivery. Although orders had been given for the woman to walk within 8 hours of delivery, she did not get out of bed and walk for 24 hours after delivery.
DEFENDANTS’ DEFENSE The case was settled before trial.
VERDICT A $3.5 million Illinois settlement was reached.
Woman told “Biopsy isn’t urgent”
TWO MONTHS AFTER HER INITIAL VISIT, a 58-year-old woman returned to the gynecologist with vaginal bleeding. In March 2004, ultrasonography (US) showed slight thickening of the endometrial lining and a “pin dot” described as being a prepolyp. Vaginal bleeding was determined to be due to thinning of the vaginal wall with menopause.
The patient reported daily vaginal bleeding when she saw the gynecologist in January 2005. A new, large, rounded, solid mass within the endometrial cavity consistent with a large endometrial polyp was seen on US. The radiologist recommended hysteroscopic biopsy with excision, but the gynecologist told the patient it was not urgent.
In March 2005, hysteroscopy confirmed carcinosarcoma of the uterus. The patient underwent a hysterectomy followed by pelvic radiation and brachytherapy.
Eight months later, metastasis was found in the lungs; she died in October 2006.
ESTATE’S CLAIM The gynecologist failed to react when the patient first reported vaginal bleeding. An earlier diagnosis could have prevented her death.
PHYSICIAN’S DEFENSE The case was settled before trial.
VERDICT An $820,000 Massachusetts settlement was reached.
US report misses fetal abnormalities
A PREGNANT WOMAN UNDERWENT US. The preliminary report indicated echogenic cardiac focus and unilateral pyelectasis. Twenty-five days later, the mother underwent a level II US. A radiologist wrote that fetal anatomy was normal in both reports. The mother had two additional sonograms, with no reported abnormality.
The baby was born with aplasia and hypoplasia with both arms absent below a short humerus, an absent left leg, and a shortened right leg with a remnant foot and three small toes.
PARENTS’ CLAIM The radiologist’s US reports failed to accurately describe the fetal anatomy, depriving the parents of the chance to terminate the pregnancy.
DEFENDANTS’ DEFENSE Proper treatment was given.
VERDICT A $4.5 million Florida verdict was returned. Fault was assigned to the radiologist (85%) and the level II technologist (15%).
Forceps delivery injures mother’s pelvic floor
DURING A TRIAL OF LABOR, a 34-year-old woman experienced deep transverse arrest and lack of progress due to pelvic restriction. The ObGyn proceeded to deliver the baby vaginally using forceps, which caused pelvic floor injuries to the mother.
Several months later, she underwent corrective repair surgery for pelvic floor prolapse. She has continuing vaginal and rectal pain and dysfunction.
PATIENT’S CLAIM A cesarean delivery should have been performed as soon as pelvic restriction was found. The injuries reduce the woman’s chances of having another child.
PHYSICIAN’S DEFENSE A trial of labor was proper. The patient’s continuing fertility problems are related to chronic yeast infections and prescription birth control.
VERDICT A $1,716,469 Illinois verdict was returned, which included $484,000 to the patient’s husband for loss of consortium.
7 CASES OF INJURED BOWEL
1 Woman dies from bowel injury
DURING A SLING PROCEDURE for vaginal prolapse, a 50-year-old woman required a transfusion. The next day, she was nauseated and constipated. A day later, she went to the ED with shortness of breath and chest and abdominal pain. Her symptoms persisted for 8 days before an injury to her transverse colon was found during exploratory surgery. She suffered massive organ failure caused by sepsis and died 3 weeks after the initial surgery.
ESTATE’S CLAIM The gynecologist should have investigated why she needed a transfusion during surgery. He should have reacted earlier to her postsurgical complaints.
PHYSICIAN’S DEFENSE Bowel injury is a known risk of the procedure. The patient suffered multiple strokes after being readmitted to the hospital.
VERDICT A $2.4 million South Carolina verdict was returned.
2 Colostomy, coma after hysterectomy
DUE TO FIBROID TUMORS and pelvic pain, a 39-year-old woman’s ObGyn suggested laparoscopic-assisted vaginal hysterectomy. A third-year resident performed most of the procedure. The ObGyn’s associate covered postsurgical care.
When the patient reported increasing pain and rectal bleeding, an exploratory laparotomy was performed 3 days after surgery. Bowel and ureter injuries were repaired and a permanent colostomy was created. The patient developed septic shock with multiple organ failure, and was placed in a chemically induced coma for 3 weeks, after which she had to relearn to walk, talk, and care for herself.