Medical Misdiagnosis May Lead to Death



Austin Personal Injury Lawyers

Austin Personal Injury Lawyers - Perlmutter & Schuelke, PLLC

Austin, TX (Law Firm Newswire) September 24, 2015 – Medical misdiagnosis may lead to serious injuries or death. In this case, a family was awarded $195,000 in a lawsuit for the wrongful death of their mother.

The initial diagnosis, based on the E.R. attending and the attending physician’s assistant’s (P.A.) interpretation of the patient’s electrocardiogram (EKG) results, was a condition called bundle branch block. As it turned out, the EKG results were not correctly interpreted, and the patient was actually suffering from a much more serious condition that could result in a complete blockage of the heart, leading to sudden cardiac arrest. The condition is treatable, but the pacemaker needed to regulate the heart must be externally placed and the patient continuously monitored during surgery.

Despite the fact that the EKG results were clear, those in charge of the patient did not make the correct diagnosis. It is not clear if that error was a result of negligent misinterpretation of the EKG or negligent carelessness in relying solely on the interpretation presented by the computer. As a result of that inaccurate diagnosis, the proper treatment and intervention were not ordered. The woman was sent home an hour after being admitted with a drug to treat high blood pressure.

“The 78-year-old woman in this case died as a result of hospital doctors failing to properly diagnose and treat a life-threatening condition, known as second-degree atrioventricular (AV) block or heart block,” said Brooks Schuelke, a wrongful death attorney with the Austin firm of Perlmutter & Schuelke, PLLC, not involved in the case.

The woman returned to hospital 18 hours after being discharged. Her condition had deteriorated dramatically. She presented with an unsteady gait, facial and hand numbness, tremors, confusion and disorientation. A second doctor ordered a head CT scan and a second EKG. The results of the second EKG showed the woman in complete heart block, or third-degree AV block. Evidence in the case showed the doctors’ writing on the EKG traced two different interpretations, stating the woman was in second-degree block in one place and in third-degree in another.

“Even though the various physicians noted her condition and her clear physical symptoms, no one ordered cardiac monitoring, asked for a consult from a cardiac surgeon or took steps to place an external pacemaker. She was only admitted for observation,” Schuelke said. In the early morning hours of the day the patient was admitted, nursing staff found her non-responsive in her room.

She was moved to the emergency area and a resuscitation attempt started half an hour after she had been found. During the attempt to revive her, a string of other misadventures befell the medical staff. One such error, difficulty with the Ambu-bag, stopped oxygen from reaching her brain. Fifteen minutes later, the patient had been revived, but was non-responsive and comatose. On transfer to another medical facility, another CT scan of her head showed severe brain swelling. She was eventually diagnosed as being brain dead and passed away.

“This could happen to anyone. In cases where medical misdiagnosis results in serious injury or death, the family would best be advised to seek competent legal counsel to discuss what options are open to them in seeking to file a wrongful death lawsuit,” Schuelke said.

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