September 20, 2019

On August 29, 2019, a federal medical malpractice jury, after a three-day trial, returned its verdict in favor of the defendant radiologist in a Virginia medical malpractice case in which the plaintiff alleged that the defendant radiologist negligently failed to diagnosis an intestinal volvulus in a CT scan, resulting in a two-day delay in treatment. The plaintiff alleged that she required multiple surgeries during which a substantial portion of her small intestine was removed and that she would not have required such extensive surgeries if the defendant radiologist had appropriately reported the volvulus in a earlier CT scan two days prior.

Volvulus is a medical emergency and occurs when a loop of intestine twists around itself and the mesentery that supports it, causing a bowel obstruction. Symptoms include abdominal bloating, pain, vomiting, constipation, and bloody stools. The onset of symptoms may be gradual or rapid. The mesentery becomes so tightly twisted that blood supply is cut off, resulting in an ischemic bowel. If the bowel is severely twisted or the blood supply is cut off, emergent surgery is required. A bowel resection within two days is generally recommended. Source

The plaintiff had originally gone to a walk-in medical clinic in April 2017 for abdominal pain, swelling after eating, and bloating. A CT scan was ordered that showed kidney stones and fecal matter in her intestines but there was no report of any blockage. She was sent home with instructions regarding care for kidney stones, which did not relieve her symptoms. It was not until one month later that the plaintiff sought medical treatment at a hospital emergency room where a second CT scan of her belly was interpreted by the defendant radiologist as showing kidney stones but no obstruction. When her symptoms failed to get better, the plaintiff returned to the emergency room two days later, where another CT scan was taken and interpreted by the defendant radiologist as showing volvulus.

The plaintiff was admitted to the hospital for nine days during which she underwent surgery (her previous gastric bypass also had to be reversed). At the time of discharge from the hospital, the plaintiff had a tube through which nutrition and medication could be administered. After the tube was removed, the plaintiff required intravenous feedings because her small intestine had been damaged and was significantly shortened.

Sowers v. Emamian, M.D., United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia Alexandria Division, Case No. I:18cv993 (LMB/IDD).

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