Articles Posted in Emergency Room Errors

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Syracuse medical malpractice lawyer Anthony S. Bottar, managing partner of Bottar Leone, PLLC, one of Upstate New York’s oldest law firms with a practice limited to medical malpractice, wrongful death, birth injuries, work injuries, brain injuries, and product/premises liability, was elected president of the New York State Academy of Trial Lawyers, an organization dedicated to protecting, preserving and enhancing the civil justice system.

The New York State Academy of Trial Lawyers boasts a membership of more than 1400 judges, law clerks, law firms, lawyers, paralegals and law students, including: Syracuse medical malpractice lawyers handling cases concerning stroke misdiagnosis, failure to diagnose cancer and failure to prevent a heart attack; Syracuse work injury lawyers handling cases concerning construction site accidents, scaffolding accidents and injuries caused by a fall from a height; Syracuse birth injury lawyers handling cases concerning fetal hypoxia and ischemia, cerebral palsy and Erb’s palsy; Utica brain injury lawyers handling cases concerning concussions, post-concussion symdrome and TBI; Watertown medical malpractice lawyers handling cases concerning Samaritan Medical Center negligence and Fort Drum physician mistakes; and Watertown injury lawyers handling New York State Thruway accidents.

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Last week, Aaron J. Ryder, Esq., a Syracuse medical malpractice lawyer with Bottar Leone, PLLC, secured $900,000.00 in compensation from a group of north country defendants, including several emergency room physicians working at a Watertown-area hospital. The Watertown emergency room malpractice lawsuit alleged that the defendants’ collectively failed to diagnose a carotid artery occlusion before the plaintiff suffered a stroke that caused a partial loss of use of one arm, partial loss of use of one leg, speech and memory deficits, and a permanent seizure disorder.

In sum, the 51 year old plaintiff presented to the emergency room on day 1 with complaints of a headache and lower extremity weakness. She was discharged with a diagnosis of back pain. She returned on day 23 with ongoing complaints of lower extremity weakness and decreased muscle control. She was again discharged with a diagnosis of back pain. She returned on day 24 with complaints of jumbled thoughts, blurred vision, lower extremity weakness, decreased lower extremity sensation, and was observed dragging her foot while walking. She was discharged with no diagnosis. On day 25, the plaintiff suffered a stroke. The stroke prevented blood from reaching her brain, causing brain damage.

As the plaintiff was permanently totally disabled before the stroke, for reasons unrelated to the lawsuit, she did not have a claim for lost wages. The $900,000.00 recovery was for her past and future pain and suffering.

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A recent study of approximately 400,000 patients suggests that emergency room physicians treating chest pain are all too often ordering cardiac catheterizations, a relatively safe procedure commonly used to rule out a heart attack. Surprisingly, most of the patients who underwent the procedure did not have obstructive disease.

According to Central New York medical malpractice lawyers Bottar Leone, PLLC, most unnecessary medical procedures are performed without incident. However, where a patient experiences a complication as a result of a contraindicated medical procedure, the physician who ordered the procedure may be liable for medical negligence.

Typically, interventional cardiologists perform cardiac catheterizations by threading a thin tube into a vein or artery in the groin and maneuvering the tube to the coronary arteries or heart. In most cases, the patient is awake and feels no pain. Soreness is to be expected in the blood vessel where the catheter was inserted. Known risks and complications associated with cardiac catheterization include: infection, damage to involved blood vessels, arrhythmias, low blood pressure (hypotension), blood clots, heart attack, congestive heart failure and allergic reactions to dye causing kidney damage.
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Children’s Hospital researchers recently announced that a procalcitonin test may help identify serious bacterial infections in children without the need for hospitalization, invasive testing (such as a spinal tap), or medication.

According to Syracuse, New York infection lawyers Bottar Leone, PLLC, one of the most significant signs of an ongoing disease process in children is a fever. Most infant visits to an emergency room are for fever. As many as 20% of fevers have no identifiable cause. While a fever may be a symptom of something as minor as a cold or the flu, a fever may also be a sign of a very serious infection, such as meningitis, bacteremia, pneumonia or urinary tract infection. The failure to diagnose meningitis can result in brain damage or death.

As many as 12% of “well-appearing” children in the emergency room are very ill. Emergency room doctors should not rely solely upon whether a child has a fever to determine whether a baby is sick, especially in children under the age of 3 months. In turn, most order a battery of tests, including analysis of blood, urine and spinal fluid. Performing a procalcitonin test may allow emergency room personnel to quickly identify whether a child is at low-risk for a serious bacterial infection.
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Crouse Hospital recently received the American Stroke Association’s 2010 award for Silver-Plus Performance Achievement. The award recognizes Crouse Hospital‘s commitment to stroke care, including timely recognition of stroke symptoms and prompt treatment by tPA, where appropriate. The hospital’s pledge to patients should lead to a lower number of misdiagnosed strokes and permanent disabilities.

Strokes kill more than 100,000 people every year, and are a leading cause of long-term disabilities. 75% of strokes occur in people over age 65. Strokes are more common in women and African Americans. Stroke symptoms include: numbness of face, arm or leg; sudden confusion; vision disturbances; difficulty speaking; absence of coordination; and a “thunderclap” headache.

Nearly 90% of strokes are ischemic, which is where a blood clot prevents blood from flowing. tPA can be used to treat ischemic strokes, provided it is administered quickly. Failure to administer tPA may be due to medical malpractice such as an emergency room error.
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In April of 2009, St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center, a Syracuse hospital, received chest pain center certification by the Society of Chest Pain Centers. St. Joseph’s Hospital mistakes are expected to decrease with the accreditation because the certification means that the hospital is committed to state-of-the-art care, including prompt identification of a heart attack and quick treatment. The faster that a heart attack is treated, the better the outcome.

A heart attack may not be treated quickly for several reasons. First, many people do not go straight to the hospital after they experience chest pain. On average, most heart attack victims do not arrive in an emergency room until two hours after a heart attack stops. From there, emergency room errors may lead to improper triage and a patient may not see a physician, or specialist such as a cardiologist, for several hours. Where patients are promptly seen by emergency room staff, chest pain due to a heart attack is commonly misdiagnosed as indigestion and patients are frequently sent home without life-saving treatment.
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Upstate University Hospital, a 378 bed facility located in Syracuse, New York, recently secured the LIFENET System for use within the hospital. LIFENET is a computerized system that monitors ECG changes in order to reduce treatment time for patients suffering from a heart attack. More specifically, patients suffering from an ST elevated myocardial infarction, or STEMI. As STEMIs quickly damage heart muscle, they must be diagnosed and treated quickly by emergency room staff. Ideally, within ninety (90) minutes. Where treatment is not administered promptly, whether due to a failure to diagnose a heart attack, hospital negligence, or an inexplicable delay, patients have a less positive outcome.

Percutaneous treatment for heart attacks usually consists of stent placement or angioplasty. Open heart surgery may also be necessary. According to Hani Kozman, M.D., director of the Cardiac Catherization Lab at Upstate Medical University, “[h]aving this new system will enable Upstate University Hospital to better meet the guideline of treatment in 90 minutes or less, as recommended by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology.”

LIFENET will notify healthcare providers of the nature of a patient’s heart attack. Perhaps even before they arrive at the hospital emergency room. This should reduce door-to-balloon (DTB) time.
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