Medical Verdicts

Should have used other dystocia maneuvers first



AN OBGYN ENCOUNTERED SHOULDER DYSTOCIA. He used fundal pressure and downward lateral traction to free the baby’s shoulder. The child has a brachial plexus injury of the right shoulder, including nerve avulsion, a fractured clavicle, and permanent disfigurement. She underwent surgery; physical and occupational therapy will continue.

PARENTS' CLAIM The standard sequence of maneuvers should have been attempted before fundal pressure and lateral traction were used—the baby was sufficiently oxygenated to allow time for these maneuvers. Excessive lateral traction caused the injury.

DEFENDANTS' DEFENSE The injuries occurred in utero before or while the fetus progressed down the birth canal, and were due to the maternal forces of labor.

VERDICT A $3,070,000 Michigan verdict was returned against the hospital, ObGyn, and ObGyn group.

Read Dr. Robert L. Barbieri’s May Editorial, You are the second responder to a shoulder dystocia emergency. What do you do first? and Dr. Ronald T. Burkman’s March Stop/Start article, Stop all activities that may lead to further shoulder impaction when you suspect possible shoulder dystocia
Meconium aspiration leads to brain injury

LATE IN HER PREGNANCY, a woman went to the emergency department (ED) with hypertension; she was discharged the same day. She saw her ObGyns, Dr. A and Dr. B, three times in the next 2 weeks. A day after her last visit, she returned to the ED in active labor. Dr. B assumed her care. Fetal monitoring indicated a nonreassuring heart rate with decelerations. Dr. B administered oxytocin and labor continued.

The baby was born by cesarean delivery after 25 minutes of fetal bradycardia. She was covered in meconium, with a low heart rate and irregular, labored respirations. The baby was transferred to another hospital, where she was treated for pulmonary hypertension, meconium aspiration, and seizures. The child is totally disabled, and will require constant care for life.

PARENTS' CLAIM The mother’s hypertension was not properly treated. Dr. B and the nurse waited too long to perform a cesarean delivery.

DEFENDANTS' DEFENSE Proper prenatal care was provided. There was no reason for additional testing; fetal heart tones at the mother’s last office visit were reactive. There were no clinical signs of a hematoma or cord varix during office visits. An unpredictable, unpreventable umbilical cord hematoma caused ischemia and hypoxia, and the subsequent brain injury. Meconium had been in the amniotic fluid for at least 10 hours due to the ischemic/hypoxic episode. The hematoma formed between her last office visit and when the mother came to the hospital the next day.

VERDICT Settlements were reached with Dr. A and the hospital. An Arkansas defense verdict was returned for Dr. B and the nurse.

14 months' recovery after mass removed

A GYNECOLOGIC ONCOLOGIST operated on a woman in her 50s to remove a large, noncancerous pelvic mass. The patient, discharged on postoperative day 2, was readmitted the next day with a fever (temperature, 103ºF), nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Four days later, the oncologist repaired a perforated bowel and created an ileostomy. Other procedures were needed to drain abscesses and repair fistulas, and resect a large portion of colon due to continuing infection. Treatment lasted 14 months.

PATIENT'S CLAIM The gynecologic oncologist was negligent in failing to timely diagnose and treat the bowel perforation. Earlier repair would have curtailed development of the abscesses and fistulae.

PHYSICIAN'S DEFENSE Any complications the patient experienced were unrelated to any delay in treatment.

VERDICT A $612,237 Michigan verdict was returned.

Colon perforated during abdominal access

WHEN A MORBIDLY OBESE 37-YEAR-OLD WOMAN reported chronic pelvic pain, her gynecologist suspected endometriosis. Conservative treatment failed and the gynecologist offered laparoscopic hysterectomy.

After abdominal insufflation was unsuccessfully attempted twice using a Veress needle, the gynecologist entered the abdomen with a Visiport optical trocar, and continued the procedure. The gynecologist inspected the abdomen before closing but found no injuries.

The patient did not do well after surgery. CT scan detected a bowel perforation on postoperative day 6. During exploratory laparotomy, a through-and-through “bayonet” colon perforation was repaired. Because of the extensive infection, the patient’s surgical wound was left open and several “washouts” were performed; the wound was closed several weeks later. The patient also underwent two adhesiolysis procedures.

PATIENT'S CLAIM Access to the abdomen was not properly performed and caused colon perforation. The injury should have been found and treated earlier.

PHYSICIAN'S DEFENSE The case was settled before trial.

VERDICT A $750,000 Virginia settlement was reached.

READ How to avoid intestinal and urinary tract injuries during gynecologic laparoscopy, by Michael Baggish, MD (Surgical Techniques, October 2012) What caused this C. diff infection after hysterectomy?


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