Failure to Refer Patient to Neurologist for Cerebral Edema Evaluation Leads to Death

An Ohio jury recently awarded the surviving husband and 3 children of a 33 year old woman $5.6 million following an emergency room physician's failure to refer her to a neurologist for further work-up.  Eighteen months prior to her death, the woman had presented to the same emergency room and was hospitalized for treatment of cerebral edema.  Cerebral edema refers to an excess accumulation of fluid in the spaces of the brain.  Cerebral edema can result from brain trauma or from non-traumatic causes such as an ischemic stroke, cancer, meningitis or encephalitis.  Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, faintness, seizures and coma.  If brain herniation (a potentially deadly side effect of very  high pressure within the skull that occurs when a part of the brain is squeezed across other structures within the skull) occurs, patients can experience respiratory compromise or even respiratory arrest.  Because of the possibility that cerebral edema can lead to fatal complications, health care providers must always exercise a high degree of vigilance when confronted with signs and symptoms associated with cerebral edema. 

In the Ohio case, following the hospitalization 18 months earlier for cerebral edema treatment, the woman re-presented to the hospital with complaints of head pain, nause and vomiting.  Two residents and an osteopath diagnosed her with a migraine headache and discharged her home with medication.  No neurology consultation was requested.  The following day, the woman became unresponsive and died.  The woman's estate and surviving family members alleged at trial that the woman's immediate medical history and presenting symptoms warranted consideration of cerebral edema as a cause of her condition. 

At STSW, our attorneys routinely handle cases in the Baltimore and Washington D.C. area in which it is alleged that a health care provider failed to properly evaluate a patient and/or consider a patient's history when reaching a final diagnosis as to their current state.  Additionally, our attorneys handle cases in which health care providers fail to make a timely diagnosis and/or fail to consider/rule out a particular condition that is potentially fatal within their differential diagnosis (a list of possible causes).  Often times, this negligence has catastrophic results for the patient and their families, negligence that could have been avoided had the physicians taken the time to properly evaluate and consider the possible reasons for why the patient is presenting the way that they are.  If you or a loved one has been victimized in such a fashion, call our lawyers at 410-385-2225 for a free consultation.