$1,750,000 Settlement for Failure to Diagnose Post-Operative Bleeding

Mitch Makowicz obtained a significant recovery in a case arising from the care of a 74-year-old woman with a history of spinal arthritis and disc herniations. Following the advice of her orthopedic surgeon, the client underwent a multi-level spinal operation under general anesthesia. Upon awakening from the anesthesia, she complained that she was unable to feel or move her feet. This complaint was made known to the surgeon, and was documented in the medical chart. The surgeon claimed that he believed her complaints were due to post-anesthetic numbness, a benign condition, and that her function would return within a couple of hours. He ordered no testing, failed to order any specific treatment and did not instruct the nurses to undertake interventions to monitor and keep him apprised of her condition. He did not instruct the nurses to contact him in a few hours to let him know whether, in fact, the numbness and paralysis had subsided. The surgeon did not contact the nurses to inquire as to the client’s progress at any time that day. When the surgeon received a call at 7:30 a.m. the following morning from his assistant advising that the client still had not regained sensation or movement, he instructed the assistant to do nothing until he arrived. Upon his arrival an hour later, he ordered an urgent CT scan of her back to determine the cause of the problem. The scan showed two large hematomas (collections of blood) that had compressed the nerves in the client’s lower back. Instead of immediately acting upon this information provided to him by the radiologist, the surgeon waited until several hours later to tell the client that nothing could be done to return function or sensation to her legs. She was left permanently paralyzed from the waist down. As a further result, she developed ulcers on her leg which led to the amputation of one leg. Mitch was able to establish that the surgeon was fully aware when he saw the client post-operatively that her complaints could be due to hematoma, an emergent situation that would require immediate care. Mitch also established that the surgeon did not specifically order any type of nursing intervention, and did not instruct hospital staff to keep him apprised of her progress in light of those complaints. He was further able to establish that if existence of the hematomas been timely diagnosed, surgery could have been done to correct the situation and prevent her paralysis. The case was settled for $1,750,000.