What are My Legal Options Regarding Heart Surgery Malpractice?July 14, 2020
According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Although medication and heart-healthy lifestyle changes can help treat certain conditions, or prevent them from becoming more serious, for some patients, surgery is the best option. All surgical procedures come with a degree of risk, but heart surgery can be particularly complicated. Even the smallest mistake can cause damage to the heart tissue, changes in blood flow to the brain, and other serious complications. In some cases, a mistake during heart surgery can result in a fatality.
Medical malpractice lawsuits arising from medical negligence in heart surgery are fairly common, owing to the difficulty of many of these procedures and the number of surgeries performed in this country. However, it is important to understand that a poor outcome does not necessarily mean that the health care provider committed malpractice. A skilled medical malpractice lawyer can thoroughly review the case and determine whether negligence was involved.
Examples of Heart Surgery Medical Errors
Heart surgeons attend years of schooling and undergo extensive training to develop the knowledge and skills necessary to perform intricate heart surgeries. However, even the most experienced heart surgeon can make a mistake. Although mistakes can cause serious health complications, and even fatalities in extreme cases, a poor outcome does not always mean that negligence was the cause. Heart surgery is extremely complex, and complications can arise. The following are examples of common surgical errors:
- Angioplasty errors: This procedure can help treat coronary artery disease, atherosclerosis, angina, and acute myocardial infarctions. Although this is considered a routine procedure, up to 16 percent of patients undergo complications, some of which are fatal. The procedure involves inserting a small balloon catheter into an artery in the patient’s arm, leg, or groin. Doctors inject a radiographic dye into the blockage to help guide the catheter into the artery. Once in the artery, the balloon is inflated, which compresses the plaque and allows the blood the flow. Complications can occur if surgeons become complacent when performing a routine procedure. The following are examples of complications that can occur:
- Blood clots
- Kidney issues
- Internal bleeding
- Coronary artery damage
- Overinflating the balloon catheter
- Release of plaque
- Other complications, including stroke, embolism, and heart attacks
- Cardiac ablation errors: This procedure involves inserting a needle into a vein in the arm, neck, or groin and placing a sheath into the needle, which is used to guide a catheter to the patient’s heart. Using a catheter that has electrodes on the tip, the doctor can monitor the patient’s heart and send electrical impulses in the form of radiofrequency, cryoablation, or lasers. Once the doctor identifies the damaged heart tissue, he or she will send electrical impulses to either scar or destroy the tissue. Complications can include the following:
- Damage to blood vessels
- Damage to the electrical system
- Heart puncture
- Tissue damage
- Blood clots
- Coronary artery bypass errors: This procedure is recommended if blood flow to a patient’s heart is blocked. The patient is fully sedated, then hooked up to a heart-lung machine, which keeps blood and oxygen flowing throughout the body during the procedure. A healthy blood vessel is removed from somewhere else in the body and placed above and below the blocked artery. Once the blood vessel has been grafted, the surgeon will disconnect the patient from the heart-lung machine and close the chest cavity. Possible complications include the following:
- Cognitive issues
- Heart attack
Examples of Medical Errors Caused by Malpractice
To pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit against a physician, the patient must prove that the surgeon, or a member of the surgical team, failed to provide the standard of care that a reasonably skilled medical professional with a similar background would have provided under similar circumstances. The following are examples of medical errors caused by malpractice:
- Failure to diagnose, delayed diagnosis, or misdiagnosis of a heart condition
- Incorrect dosage of anesthesia
- Failure to monitor the patient during or after the surgery
- Medication errors, including incorrect dosage, prescribing the wrong medication, or failing to administer the correct medication at the right time following surgery
- Failure to follow up with the patient, which can cause untreated complications to develop
- Failure to diagnose cardiac diseases
- Failure to use the correct ablation technique
- Using defective leads when inserting a pacemaker
- Performing unnecessary surgical procedures
- Failure to remove surgical instruments from the patient’s body
- Using defective or unsanitary equipment
What are the Symptoms of a Botched Heart Surgery?
No two surgeries are exactly the same, and every patient is unique, but there are common symptoms when something has gone wrong, in which case the patient should seek immediate medical attention. Symptoms include the following:
- Swelling or other signs of inflammation
How Does a Patient File a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?
If a patient wishes to pursue legal action against the physician who performed their heart surgery, it is highly recommended that they speak with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer who can thoroughly review the case and recommend the best legal course of action. A medical malpractice lawyer can also ensure that the patient has the necessary paperwork, including medical records, witness testimonials, and any other documents that can help prove negligence. The lawyer will walk the patient through the claims process and address every question and concern. Other steps a patient can take to build a strong claim include the following:
- Keeping a detailed journal describing symptoms, any side effects from the medication the patient is taking, and how the injury is compromising the patient’s quality of life
- Following all the physician’s instructions
- Avoid sharing details about the injury or the case on social media
- If the opposing party contacts the patient, they should refer that person to their lawyer
What if the Surgical Error Resulted in a Fatality?
If a loved one dies as a result of a medical error during heart surgery, the surviving family members can pursue a wrongful death lawsuit. A family member, such as a spouse or a parent, will serve as the representative of the deceased’s estate. If there are multiple family members who are eligible, they will need to decide who will represent the estate. If the family is unable to appoint a representative, the courts will settle the dispute. Although financial compensation cannot make up for the loss of a loved one, it can make a difference when the bills start coming in. The surviving family member may be eligible to receive the following damages:
- Funeral expenses
- Burial expenses
- Medical expenses
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of financial support
- Deceased’s pain and suffering
- Other damages, depending on the exact cause of death
Baltimore Medical Malpractice Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Advocate for Victims of Surgical Errors
If you suffered an injury or your health was compromised while under the care of a heart surgeon, contact the Baltimore medical malpractice lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton as soon as possible. We will thoroughly review your case, including all medical records, treatment plans, and follow-up care, to determine whether your health care provider was negligent in any way. If negligence was involved, our skilled legal team will walk you through every step of the claims process and address all your questions and concerns. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.
Our offices are conveniently located in Baltimore, Columbia, Glen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Queen Anne’s County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, Rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Parkville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood, and Elkridge.