Failure to Investigate Pre-Surgical Tachycardia Results in Death

A New Jersey man recently underwent elective shoulder surgery at a surgical facility outside of the hospital.  Immediately prior to the start of the surgery, the anesthesiologist administered anesthesia to the man who, without warning, subsequently developed broad complex tachycardia (elevated heart rate).  The anesthesiologist failed to investigate the cause of the tachycardia and elected to move forward with the procedure.  Three hours following the procedure, the man died.  An autopsy determined that the cause of death was a cardiac crisis resulting from pheochromocytoma -- a rare tumor of the adrenal gland.  The man was survived by his wife, who sued the anesthesiologist and the surgical center for failing to discontinue the procedure to find the underlying cause of the complex tachycardia.  The lawsuit also alleged that the decedent should have been administered additional medications and transferred to the hospital for stabilization.  The defense, in turn, argued that the man's condition was rare and unexpected and that there had been no abnormal heart rates seen during the surgery itself. 

Prior to trial, the case settled for $2.5 million. 

At STSW, our attorneys have successfully handled several cases involving the failure of various health care providers (surgeons, anesthesiologists, primary care physicians) to delay or cancel a planned surgery due to the development of an unexplained complication prior to surgery.  Whether in the context of a standard pre-operative clearance performed by a patient's primary care physician, or a complication that arises immediately prior to the surgery, all of these health care providers are charged with a duty to ensure that any proposed surgery is safe and poses no more than the traditional (or explained) risks of any surgery.  If potential complications are flagged, these doctors are charged with the responsibility of finding the cause of the same and either treating the same or ensuring that it does not create an additional risk of harm to the patient. 

If you or a loved one have been injured in the Baltimore or Washington D.C. area as the result of a health care provider's decision to proceed with a surgery despite an increased risk of harm, call our team for a free consultation at 410-385-2225.