Our client became paralyzed when her anesthesiologist and nursing staff failed to recognize and timely treat arachnoiditis from an epidural catheter after surgery. She was a 68-year-old female. She underwent uncomplicated surgery on a Friday.
On Sunday, two days following surgery, she began to experience signs and symptoms of neurological impairment in her lower legs. The hospital intensive care unit nursing staff failed to perform adequate assessments to determine the nature of her neurological status or to alert the anesthesiologist of the change in neurological function. The anesthesiologist did not come to the hospital to examine her or her catheter during the weekend.
On Monday morning while making rounds, the surgeon noted that the patient could not move her legs and asked the anesthesiologist to see her. The anesthesiologist again did not examine her although he discontinued her epidural catheter. He gave no instructions to the nursing staff to assess her motor functions and ordered she be transferred from ICU to a regular medical ward. She remained hospitalized and paralyzed from the waist down for another 24 hours without examination or evaluation of the cause of her paralysis. During rounds on Tuesday, the surgeon again requested the anesthesiologist to examine her because she remained paralyzed. Although the anesthesiologist noted that she had been paralyzed for more than 24 hours, he still did not conduct a thorough evaluation or initiate treatment of her neurological deficits. She was transferred later in the day to a large hospital for further neurological work-up where she was found to be suffering from arachnoiditis related to her epidural catheter. Due to the delay in initiating treatment, she remains paralyzed from mid-chest down with bowel and bladder dysfunction.
Expert anesthesiologists retained by Martin & Jones testified that our client’s anesthesiologist was negligent for failing to examine his patient when her catheter appeared to be working improperly and when her neurological status and vital signs changed on Sunday. Furthermore, the anesthesiologist failed to properly instruct nurses caring for his patient to assess for and report changes in neurological status to him. Nursing experts also noted that the nursing staff failed to perform proper neurological evaluations and failed to recognize that changes in the patient’s motor function and vital signs were a medical emergency that should have been promptly reported to the anesthesiologist responsible for the patient’s epidural catheter. Timely recognition of the ominous symptoms resulting in timely management of the catheter would have prevented the paralysis in our client’s legs and her loss of bowel and bladder function. The case settled for $1.2 million.
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