Our client, a 74 year old female, reported to the emergency room with complains of having shortness of breath and pain in her abdomen. She was seen by an internal medicine specialist who ordered an x-ray. The x-ray revealed a right-sided pleural effusion. A cardiologist evaluated the x-ray and recommended a thoracentesis to drain her right sided pleural effusion. An ultrasound guided thoracentesis was perform, which yielded a large amount of clear, yellow fluid. Fifteen minutes after the thoracentesis was performed, our client lost consciousness, and her blood pressure dropped to 96/45. After the thoracentesis, our client started having diminishing breath sounds and having pain on her right side. The pain was so great that she eventually required narcotic pain medication to control it. Our client continued to experience these symptoms, but they were never properly assessed by her doctors or the nursing staff.
On the day after the procedure, an x-ray was taken that showed that her pleural effusion was again growing in size. Soon after, our client’s family called out to the nurses’ station for help because she had become short of breath and lost consciousness. The nurses found our client slumped over on a family member, and she was having a labored gasping respiration pattern. She remained unconscious for 15 seconds and lost control of her bladder. When this episode happened, the nursing staff called a cardiologist to evaluate our client. While waiting for the cardiologist to call back, our client vomited and her heart rate dropped into the 50’s. Regardless of our client’s serious condition, the cardiologist chose not to evaluate her or order tests to figure out what was causing her symptoms. Instead, he chose to prescribe our client a sleeping pill and medicine for nausea and vomiting. The family demanded that the cardiologist see our client in order to evaluate her condition.
Hours later the cardiologist evaluated our client. During this evaluation she vomited, became diaphoretic, and her heart rate dropped into the 40’s. Her pleural space was filling with blood. The cardiologist recognized and documented that her symptoms fit the diagnosis of a hemothorax and listed it in his differential diagnosis. Upon reviewing her chest x-ray the cardiologist determined that her right lung was nearly filled with blood; her hemoglobin and hematocrit levels had also significantly dropped. The cardiologist’s presumptive diagnosis was that our client had a bleed around her lung or hemothorax, but he never consulted with a surgeon to drain the blood from our client’s right lung. That evening, our client became poorly responsive and in critical condition. The cardiologist ordered another chest x-ray that revealed nearly complete opacification of the right hemothorax. The doctor did nothing to attempt to drain the blood from her right lung. With the placement of a chest tube and a blood transfusion, our client would have likely survived. Unfortunately, she received no such treatment and died from the hemothorax about 4 hours later.
Our client’s family had lost a mother, grandmother, and mentor, among other things. They believed that the doctors had neglected to properly treat their mother’s condition, and that the doctor had plenty of time to at least attempt to drain the blood from their mother’s right lung. When this case was brought before the medical review panel, the panel found in favor of the doctor and hospital. Regardless of the negative panel opinion, Todd Townsley was able to prove the cardiologist was negligent and was able to settle this family’s claim for a satisfactory sum.