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Medical Malpractice: Unrecognized Appendicitis Causes Serious Complications

This medical malpractice case began when a man in his mid-seventies reported pain in his abdomen, nausea and vomiting after undergoing a colonoscopy. The following day, he saw his gastroenterologist and was referred to his local hospital for a CT scan of the abdomen. The plaintiff had the ordered CT scan.Medical Malpractice: Unrecognized Appendicitis Causes Serious Complications  - Altizer Law, P.C.

The scan was read and reported by a relatively inexperienced radiologist. The radiologist observed an abnormality in the upper quadrant of the man’s abdomen but did not include in his report a note about the location of the appendix and cecum. He indicated later that he had a concern about appendicitis but did not report this in his note either. He did not communicate his concern about appendicitis to the gastroenterologist by phone.

When the radiology report was reviewed by the physicians in the gastroenterology group, all agreed that the report indicated that there was no emergency that required surgery. On this basis, the physicians discharged the plaintiff and sent him home.

Two days later, plaintiff returned to his local hospital and had another CT scan done of his abdomen. This scan was read and interpreted by a different (and more experienced) radiologist. The report of this scan was that it showed ruptured appendicitis. At this time, the radiology supervisor confronted the young radiologist (defendant) about missing the condition in his report two days earlier.

Resulting from the ruptured appendix, plaintiff suffered several issues: intra-abdominal sepsis, respiratory failure resulting from the sepsis that required a ventilator, strokes, deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary emboli, ischemic kidney damage, and permanent aphasia.

Prior to trial the defendant’s insurance company refused to discuss a settlement of the case.

During trial, plaintiff’s attorneys obtained testimony from two experts who explained how the defendant had failed to provide the standard of care by mis-interpreting and incorrectly reporting the first CT scan. Failure to provide the standard of care is medical malpractice. This early scan showed appendicitis. Defendant’s attorneys and experts argued that the plaintiff actually had an abnormal anatomy.

Plaintiff’s attorneys presented experts who testified that the two-day delay in performing an appendectomy was a proximate cause of the other issues suffered by the plaintiff. Defense attorneys argued that the outcome of the misinterpretation of the first CT scan did not constitute malpractice because factors in plaintiff’s medical history caused his harms.

The jury returned a unanimous decision after three hours, awarding the plaintiff a verdict for $1,500,000.

This was a tragic case that could have been prevented if the young radiologist had followed standards of care and reported his stated concern about appendicitis in the scan report or in a call to the gastroenterologist. Standards of care are intended to protect both patients and doctors from malpractice by defining the care that is indicated in each medical situation.

If you or a loved one has been harmed due to the error or negligence of a medical provider, call Altizer Law, P.C. Bettina Altizer and her team of experienced professionals have more than 25 years of experience effectively assessing cases and representing plaintiffs in medical malpractice cases. This experience has made her a top personal injury and medical malpractice attorney based in Roanoke, VA.