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$1,500,000 Verdict - Misdiagnosis Of Patient Ductus Arteriosus As Ventricular Septal Defect - Failure To Confirm Diagnosis - Unnecessary Sternotomy - Permanent Surgical Scarring.

The plaintiff, a 38-year-old female, claimed that the defendant cardiologist negligently misdiagnosed her with a ventricular sepal defect and the defendant surgeon negligently failed to confirm the diagnosis before performing unnecessary surgery.

The plaintiff, a native of Sudan, was diagnosed with a ventricular sepal defect or "VSD" (a hole in the septum of the heart) by the defendant cardiologist in 2002. She was referred to the co-defendant cardiothoracic surgeon for open heart surgery. After the surgeon performed a sternotomy (cut through the rib cage) and opened the pericardium (the sac around the heart), he determined that the plaintiff did not have VSD, but rather, suffered from a patent ductus arteriosus or "PDA". Experts testified that the vast majority of PDAs can be corrected through a catheterization procedure without the necessity of open surgery. Evidence showed that the plaintiff's PDA was later corrected with this type of catheter procedure. The plaintiff claimed that the defendant cardiologist negligently performed the cardiac catheterization by misplacing the catheter and not obtaining oxygen saturation levels from the right ventricular outflow tract, where the catheter should have been placed.

The plaintiff experienced several weeks of fluid on her heart and lungs following the surgery. Photographs of the surgical scarring was introduced to the jury. The plaintiff's experts testified that the plaintiff is also at risk for development of adhesions around her heart which could make any future surgery more difficult. In addition, the plaintiff suffered from preexisting spinal scoliosis which her doctors testified can exacerbate the residual lung capacity and breathing problems related to the surgery. The plaintiff made no claim for economic damages. The defendant's cardiology expert opined that the defendant cardiologist properly placed the cardiac catheter, but that the plaintiff had an anatomic anomaly of the heart valve. The anomaly allowed blood to jet through the valve the wrong way (the PDA is in the vessel below the valve) and therefore oxygenated blood entered the ventricular outflow tract, according to the defendant's expert.

The co-defendant, cardiothoracic surgeon testified that he laid his hand on the plaintiff's heart and felt a thrill (a fluttering feeling in the vessel which is likened to the feeling of petting a purring cat). The surgeon testified that the thrill was the first indication to make him consider that the cardiologist may have been wrong in his diagnosis of VSD, because a thrill is consistent with a PDA and not VSD.

The surgeon testified he rechecked the oxygen saturation levels intraoperatively with a Swan Ganz catheter and did not see the step-up in oxygen saturations expected. Finally, the surgeon testified he relied on the TEE to determine that the plaintiff did not have VSD. He immediately stopped the operation, closed the sternum and referred the plaintiff for repair of her PDA.

The jury found the defendant cardiologist 100% negligent. The plaintiff was awarded non-economic damages of $1,500,000 comprised of $500,000 in past and $1 million in future damages.

This informational piece was prepared by Silverman & Fodera. If you would like more information on this topic, call us at (800) 220-LAW1, or use the "Do I Have A Case?" link on this web site.