June 7, 2012

During early May, 2012, a Maryland medical malpractice jury in Baltimore City returned a medical malpractice verdict in the amount of $1 million in favor of the two surviving sons of a woman who had a fatal allergic reaction to the dye used during her cardiac catheterization procedure. The two sons alleged in their medical malpractice case that the elective cardiac catheterization procedure that used contrast dye to determine if their mother had coronary heart disease was unnecessary because preliminary medical testing indicated that she had only a ten percent likelihood of having heart disease.

The 52-year-old woman complained of chest pain when she met with the cardiologist during May, 2009. She had a normal stress test, she had a normal-sized heart, and her heart functioning was found to be normal although she was found to have mild hardening of tissue without significant narrowing of her vessels. Nonetheless, the cardiologist recommended that she undergo the elective cardiac catheterization, according to the medical malpractice claim.

Because the woman’s past medical history included a severe allergic reaction to a bee sting five years prior, the cardiologist was required to determine the extent of her tolerance for the dye that was to be used during the cardiac catheterization, according to the medical malpractice lawsuit. As a precaution, the woman was given two doses of prednisone and two doses of Benadryl just prior to the catheterization, to prevent an allergic reaction to the dye.

Despite the precautions taken by the cardiologist (which the medical malpractice claim alleged were insufficient under the circumstances), the woman immediately experienced respiratory arrest when she was given the dye and she died later that day.

The medical malpractice claim alleged that the elective catheterization procedure was unnecessary under the circumstances (a non-invasive alternative procedure was more appropriate based on the low probability that the woman had coronary heart disease, according to an expert), that the cardiologist failed to fully appreciate the woman’s susceptibility to allergic reactions, and that the cardiologist failed to properly medicate the woman before the procedure.

After the one-week trial, the Baltimore medical malpractice jury returned its $1 million verdict, which will be automatically reduced to $831,250 due to Maryland’s statutory cap on noneconomic damages.

Source: The Daily Record, May 14, 2012

All invasive medical procedures, including cardiac catheterizations that are routinely performed many times each day in hospitals throughout the United States, have associated risks, ranging from minor discomfort or pain to death. Allergic reactions to medications or other substances used during medical procedures (such as contrast agents used during some imaging procedures (CT scans) and dyes used during cardiac catheterizations) are uncommon but when they do occur, they can usually be promptly treated and resolved without long term consequences. Nonetheless, the benefits of each medical procedure must be weighed against the known risks associated with the medical procedure, with the patient being adequately told of the benefits and the risks and the informed consent for the procedure being obtained from the patient.

If you, a family member, or a loved one may have been injured due to medical negligence, you owe it to your family and to yourself to have a local medical malpractice attorney investigate your potential medical malpractice claim for you.

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