Vermont – Emergency Medicine – Suspected Ventricular Tachycardia Not Addressed In A Patient With Respiratory Distress, Fever, And An Elevated Heart Rate

On 2/6/2013 a patient’s father contacted EMS (emergency medical services) because his son had respiratory distress, fever, and an elevated heart rate.

EMS documented a heart rate of 278 and performed a pre-hospital EKG because ventricular tachycardia (VTach) was a concern.  EMS contacted the hospital to report vital signs and their impression of VTach.

The patient presented to the emergency department at 11:29 p.m.  The patient was triaged at 11:42 p.m. and a pulse of 245, blood pressure of 53/39, and a temperature of 101.02 were recorded.  An EKG was performed at 11:43 p.m.  The results were shown to the ED physician at 11:47 p.m.

The ED physician’s notes state that at 12:13 a.m. the patient was examined.  It was documented that the ED physician suspected the patient was in VTach, but no therapy was administered.

The ED physician then contacted the on-call cardiologist, who advised the ED physician to treat the patient for probable sepsis with fluids and Tylenol.  The ED physician then ordered IV antibiotics and spoke to a critical care physician about transfer of the patient.

At 12:29 a.m. the patient had a ventricular fibrillation cardiac arrest.  He was treated with various medications but no shock was given.  At 12:45 a.m. the patient was pronounced dead.

The Board concluded that the ED physician be reprimanded, complete 15 hours of continuing education on Advanced Cardiac Life Support, and pay a fine of $1000.

State: Vermont

Date: September 2017

Specialty: Emergency Medicine, Cardiology

Symptom: Shortness of Breath, Fever, Palpitations

Diagnosis: Cardiac Arrhythmia

Medical Error: Improper treatment, Delay in proper treatment

Significant Outcome: Death

Case Rating: 3

Link to Original Case File: Download PDF

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