Tom Leverage Successfully Defends Against Claims of Negligent Post Operative Care
The case was unusual in that the patient himself was a physician, his wife was an OB/GYN physician, and four of his five sisters were physicians. The patient’s family was active in selecting the surgeon to do the delicate and dangerous surgery involving the pancreas. The five hour operation was a success, but the patient suffered from a pulmonary embolus one day post-operatively. He was transferred to the Surgical Intensive Care Unit and had a somewhat rocky course. Four days later he was transferred to a telemetry floor. The patient exhibited mental status changes and had respiratory difficulties. He then had a significant drop in his hematocrit and hemoglobin values requiring transfusions with 3 units of blood. The next day he had a significant rise in his white blood cell count. His abdomen had been distended for days and he had over the course of the hospitalization gained over 40 pounds from fluids. A CAT scan was ordered of the abdomen which the patient initially refused but later signed a consent for this exam. Shortly after physical therapy around noon time, he decompensated and a code was called. The patient was intubated and given more fluids.
When seen again by the surgeon after the code, it was determined that an exploratory laparotomy was needed. The patient was rushed to the operating room where he became pulseless. Upon entering the abdomen, there was a release of pressure. However, the patient could not then be later ventilated and died.
The plaintiff’s counsel, David Dean, argued through his experts that the patient suffered from prolonged, undiagnosed abdominal compartment syndrome. The defense argued that the code on the day of death was due to another pulmonary embolus.
The jury concluded that the patient did not have abdominal compartment syndrome prior to his code on the day he died. The jury found in favor of the defendant and a defence verdict was obtained.