Found 51 Results Sorted by Case Date
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Florida – Emergency Medicine – A Patient With Diabetes Presents With Hyperglycemia, Nausea, Vomiting, And A Bicarbonate Level

On 4/28/2015, a 69-year-old female presented to the emergency department with complaints of nausea and vomiting, which had persisted for two to three days.

The patient reported that members of her family had recently experienced similar symptoms.

The patient presented with a history of diabetes and high blood pressure.

An ED physician ordered a general chemistry lab.  The patient’s lab work revealed a high blood glucose level of 383 with a reference range of 65-99.  The patient’s lab work also showed that her bicarbonate level was low at 15 with a reference range of 21-32.  The low bicarbonate level indicated possible acidosis.

The ED physician treated the patient with insulin and antinausea medications and discharged her.  The ED physician did not further investigate the patient’s low bicarbonate level.  The ED physician did not assess the patient for diabetic ketoacidosis.

On 4/29/2015, the patient returned to the emergency department with recurrent nausea, vomiting, and worsening shortness of breath.

The patient was diagnosed with diabetic ketoacidosis and severe sepsis.

The patient’s condition deteriorated and she expired in the hospital on 5/4/2015.

The Board judged the ED physician’s conduct to be below the minimal standard of competence given that he failed to further investigate a low bicarbonate level by ordering additional laboratory studies such as a serum ketone, serum beta-hydroxybutyrate, or serum pH.

It was requested that the Board order one or more of the following penalties for the ED physician: permanent revocation or suspension of his license, restriction of practice, imposition of an administrative fine, issuance of a reprimand, probation, corrective action, payment of fees, remedial education, and/or any other relief that the Board deemed appropriate.

State: Florida

Date: October 2017

Specialty: Emergency Medicine

Symptom: Nausea Or Vomiting, Shortness of Breath

Diagnosis: Diabetes, Sepsis

Medical Error: Failure to order appropriate diagnostic test

Significant Outcome: Death

Case Rating: 4

Link to Original Case File: Download PDF

California – Gastroenterology – Fevers And Chills After Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)

On 6/22/2010, Gastroenterologist A provided a consultation for a patient after an abdominal ultrasound showed that the patient had cholelithiasis and choledocholithiasis.  The patient’s elevated liver enzymes and dilated bile duct indicated a moderate to high probability of the possibility of stones and warranted a preoperative ERCP and sphincterotomy.  The purpose of the consultation was to remove a suspected common bile duct stone prior to a cholecystectomy.

On 6/28/2010, Gastroenterologist A performed an ERCP with sphincterotomy and balloon sweeping of the common bile duct.  He was unable to determine if he had successfully removed the suspected common bile duct stone from the patient’s dilated bile duct and placed an 8.5-French 5 cm stent into the common bile duct.

In the patient’s chart, Gastroenterologist A noted: “will pull the stent out in 2 months.”

On 11/24/2010, Gastroenterologist A next saw the patient in his office.  A second ERCP was scheduled for 2/10/2011 to remove the stent.  The patient’s medical chart contains no record of instructions given to the patient or his family members regarding the removal of the stent.  The patient’s medical chart contains no explanation for the passage of time between the placement of the stent on 6/28/2010 and the removal of the stent on 2/10/2011.  The Board noted that stents can be expected to occlude after six months and form a nidus for the formation of other stones, mud, and debris.

At 8:30 a.m. on 2/10/2011, Gastroenterologist A performed a second ERCP on the patient and removed the stent.  During the second ERCP, Gastroenterologist A performed a balloon sweep.  The patient’s medical chart contains no clear documentation that all ducts were swept.  No antibiotics were prescribed or administered to the patient immediately before, during, or after the second ERCP.  After the second ERCP, the patient was discharged from the endoscopy facility.  Several hours later, the patient’s wife called Gastroenterologist A’s office to report that the patient was experiencing chills and pain in his back and stomach.  Gastroenterologist A and/or his staff advised that the patient should be brought to Gastroenterologist A’s office right away.

At 6:00 p.m., after efforts to convince the patient’s wife to bring the patient to his office had been unsuccessful, Gastroenterologist A noted in the patient’s chart that he advised the patient’s wife to bring the patient to the office the following morning if the pain were to continue.

Thereafter, Gastroenterologist A prescribed amoxicillin 500 mg to be taken three times a day for the patient.

The following morning, the patient’s condition had not improved.  Further conversations took place between Gastroenterologist A and/or his office staff and the patient’s wife.

At noon on 2/11/2011, the patient arrived at the hospital.

On 10/7/2014, Gastroenterologist A testified that there had been several telephone calls between his office and the patient’s wife on 2/10/2011 and 2/11/2011.  Further, he stated that he and/or his staff had impressed upon the patient’s wife the severity of the patient’s condition and that it was matter of life and death that the patient receive urgent medical attention, but that patient’s wife apparently failed to understand and/or take Gastroenterologist A’s comments seriously.

However, Gastroenterologist A did not document in the cart for the patient.  He did not document the frequency of the conversations, the information given to the patient’s wife, or his wife’s failure or refusal to understand the information.

At 1:30 p.m. on 2/11/2011, the patient was admitted to a hospital and was found to be critically ill with severe sepsis.

Gastroenterologist A consulted Gastroenterologist B, who performed an ERCP on the patient on 2/12/2011.  Gastroenterologist B found “clear evidence of a biliary obstruction as evidenced by darkly pigmented bile and extensive amounts of bloody liquid and sand-like material concerning for hemobilia.”  Gastroenterologist B diagnosed “biliary obstruction resulting in ascending cholangitis and sepsis” and placed a stent in the common bile duct.

On 2/12/2011, the patient passed away.

On 2/16/2011, Gastroenterologist A completed a two-page note in the patient’s medical chart entitled “Death Summary” and marked “Final Report, ” in which he made the following comments.

“Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography was performed 2 or 3 months ago … for common bile stone retrieval with stenting of the common bile duct … His condition continued to deteriorate.  During the night, his oxygen saturation began to deteriorate, suggesting acute respiratory distress syndrome.  He was intubated and put on the machine.  The blood pressure was kept on Dopamine and Neo-Synephrine.  But, in spite of this, on 2/12/2011 after all the resources have [sic] been pulled out, I have a hunch that he would not make it because of multiorgan [sic] failure.  Therefore, I called the family and explained the grave situation as best that I could.  The patient finally expired on 2/12/2011.”

Gastroenterologist A listed the final diagnosis as “septic shock, death.”

Gastroenterologist’s “Death Summary” for the patient contained no mention of the third ERCP, performed on 2/12/2011, or Gastroenterologist’s B diagnosis of biliary obstruction.

After a hearing, the State Medical Board concluded that Gastroenterologist A committed repeated negligent acts given failure to ensure timely removal of the temporary stent, failure to ensure that the patient had a clear understanding of the importance of timely removal of the temporary stent, failure to ensure that the patient had an understanding of the risks associated with performing the second ERCP and the possible warning signs to monitor after the procedure, and failure to maintain appropriate documentation of his care and treatment of the patient.

The State Medical Board placed Gastroenterologist A on probation with stipulations to complete a professionalism program, complete a medical record keeping course, complete 40 hours annually of continuing medical education for each year of probation, and undergo clinical practice monitoring with an emphasis on medical record keeping.  During probation, Gastroenterologist A was prohibited from performing ERCP procedures.

State: California

Date: May 2017

Specialty: Gastroenterology, Internal Medicine

Symptom: Fever

Diagnosis: Sepsis

Medical Error: Physician concern overridden, Delay in proper treatment, Failure of communication with patient or patient relations, Lack of proper documentation

Significant Outcome: Death, Hospital Bounce Back

Case Rating: 4

Link to Original Case File: Download PDF

California – General Surgery – Nausea, Vomiting, And Diarrhea After Fissurectomy, Hemorrhoidectomy, And Sphincterotomy

A patient was referred to a general surgeon specialized in colorectal surgery by his primary care doctor.  The patient presented to the general surgeon on 4/10/2012 as a 35 year-old-man with anal pain since age 16.

The patient’s medical history included a 12/30/2003 colonoscopy with biopsies by a gastroenterologist, who made a postoperative diagnosis of anal fissure, rectal polyp, and two small sigmoid polyps.  The biopsies revealed benign hyperplastic polyps.  In 2009, the patient had a lumbar discectomy at L4-L5.  In October 2011, the patient was referred to, and seen by, a cardiologist.  The cardiologist found “no evidence of any fixed coronary arterial disease in the left dominant system…elevated resting left ventricular end-diastolic pressure suggests left ventricular diastolic non-compliance likely due to history of hypertension and obesity.”  In sum, the patient presented to the general surgeon with morbid obesity, hypertension, dyslipidemia, post-two back surgeries, with a resulting DVT, cardiac complaints, and a list of prescription medications; and a social history including a one pack per day smoking habit, cannabis use, and occasional alcohol use.

The patient appeared with his wife for his appointment with the general surgeon.  The patient was given a two-page medical questionnaire to complete.  The patient filled in page one of the questionnaire and the patient signed page two, leaving blank the box on page two asking the patient to circle symptoms applicable to their current condition (e.g., headaches, shortness of breath, chest pains, blood in stool, etc.).  The patient was called out of the lobby by a medical assistant, who took his vital signs and questioned him about the information listed on the questionnaire.  The medical assistant learned that the patient was allergic to penicillin, which the patient had not listed on the questionnaire.  The medical assistant reported that the patient’s vital signs to the general surgeon on a yellow sticky note was as follows: “Temp-98.2 F, Weight-341 lbs., Height-72 in., BP [Blood Pressure]-139/77, Pulse-84, RR[Respiratory Rate]-21, BMI [Body Mass Index]-46.3.”

The medical assistant then escorted the patient to an examination room. The general surgeon entered and spoke to the patient. The general surgeon took notes by hand, indicating the following:

“hemorrhoids three times after laminectomy[1l in January; symptoms greatly increased over the last six months; Bowel Habits-small stools, tenesmus [urge to defecate, but cannot], and mucus discharge; hiatal hernia; colonoscopy negative; History of polyps; no sigmoidoscopy.”

The general surgeon and the medical assistant created the chart note for the patient’s visit, which reports out the following:

CC [Current Complaint]: Hemorrhoids

HPI [History of Present Illness]: The patient is a pleasant 35- year-old referred here by [his primary care physician]. He is here because of a 3-year history of hemorrhoids with progressive painful BM’s [bowel movements], tenesmus, BRBPR [bright red blood per rectum], and small stools last 6 months. Known history of fissure. Last colonoscopy negative.

ROS [Review of Systems]: General-denies fever, night sweats, weight loss; Neurological-denies loc [loss of consciousness], ha [headaches], diplopia [double vision], tinnitus [ringing in the ears], vertigo [dizziness], numbness, tingling, incoordination; Respiratory-denies sob [shortness of breath], wheezing, coughing, hemoptysis [coughing up blood]; CV [cardiovascular system ]-denies angina, palpitation, leg cramps, pedal edema, pnd [ difficulty breathing], nocturia [ excessive urination at night], orthopmea [shortness of breath while lying down], claudication [cramping leg pain caused by exercise]; GI [gastrointestinal system]-denies nausea, vomiting, hematochezia [fresh blood in stool], hematemesis [vomiting blood], jaundice, diarrhea, incontinence, heartburn, indigestion, dysphagia [difficulty swallowing], poor appetite, constipation; GU [genitourinary]-denies dysuria [painful urination], hematuria [blood in urine], incontinence, impotence, pneumaturia [passage of gas with urine], fecuria [fecal matter in the urine]; MS [musculoskeletal]-denies stiffness, arthralgia joint pain], weakness, atrophy, bone pain, Raynaud’s [severe blood flow reaction to blood vessels in the cold in fingers and toes]; Endocrine-denies heat intolerance, cold intolerance, dry skin, dry hair, hoarseness, polydipsia [abnormally large thirst], polyuria [production of abnormally large levels of diluted urine]; Hematologic-denies bleeding, bruising, ecchymosis [discoloration of the skin resulting from bleeding underneath], pk [Pyruvate kinase deficiency, one of the most common enzymatic defects of the erythrocyte].

PMH [Past medical history]: Medical-hypertension, dyslipidemia [high cholesterol]; Surgical-lumbar laminectomy, micro-discectomy.

SH [Social history]: Patient denies recreational drug use; Smokes 1 pack/day for 15 years; Occasional alcohol consumption.

FH [Family history]: Mother- 69 alive with hypertension [high blood pressure]; Father-DEC [deceased] at 65 heart attack; Siblings- 1 brother alive at 41 with CVD [cardiovascular disease], 2 sisters alive, 1 with diabetes another with CVD.

Allergies: Penicillin.


acetaminophen-hydrocodone 325 mg.-7.5 mg. [Norco] oral tablet, folic acid 1 mg oral tablet, Xanax XR 0.5 mg oral tablet, extended release, zolpidem [ Ambien] 10 mg oral tablet.

Vitals: T [temperature]-98.2 F, Wt [weight]-341 lbs., Ht [height]-72 in., BP [Blood Pressure]-139/77, P [pulse]-84, RR [Respiratory Rate]-21, BMI [Body Mass Index]-46.3.

PE [Physical examination]: General-WD/WN [well­-developed/well-nourished] in NAD [no abnormality detected]; HEENT[head, eyes, ears, nose, throat]-PERRLA [Pupils equal, round & reactive to light & accommodation], EOMl, [extraocular movements intact], ENT [ear, nose, throat] wnl [within normal limits]; Neck-not thyromegally [enlargement of the thyroid gland] or masses, no ND [jugular venous distension] or bruits [a systolic murmur heard in the neck]; Chest-clear to auscultation and percussion; Cardiac-no murmur or gallop; Abdomen-no masses or organomegaly [enlargement of the viscera], non-tender; Extremities-no clubbing, cyanosis or edema, full range of motion; Neuro-grossly intact; Anorectal­: inspection showed posterior fissure, with spasm, no further exam. Large skin tag RPQ [right posterior quadrant]. Cannot rule out hemorrhoids.

A/P [assessment/plan]:

#ANAL fissure (565.0);



Fissurectomy, lateral sphincterotomy, possible hemorrhoidectomy. The risks, benefits, and alternatives, including the slight chance of incontinence, are discussed.

Following the examination, the patient signed two information and consent forms: Hemorrhoids-Surgical Hemorrhoidectomy and Anal Fissure-Fissurectomy and Sphincterotomy.

No surgery was scheduled, and the patient left the general surgeon’s office. The general surgeon did not request the patient’s medical file from the primary care doctor.

On 4/23/2014, at approximately 9:00 a.m., the patient called the general surgeon’s office, complaining of terrible pain and pleading for relief. At the time, the general surgeon was in surgery at a surgery center. The general surgeon was contacted in the operating room (OR) by his office on behalf of the patient. Although the general surgeon was scheduled for a full day of surgeries, he offered to operate on the patient at the end of his surgical schedule that day. The patient accepted. The general surgeon’s office transmitted a Pre-Admission form, with Physician’s Orders, to the surgery center at approximately 10:00 a.m., requesting the patient have the following tests prior to surgery: “EKG [electrocardiogram]; CBC [complete blood count], without Differential (includes Platelets); UA[urine analysis]/Culture if indicated.”

At 3:44 p.m., the patient was admitted to the surgery center for his surgical procedures. The Admission’s Nurse completed the Admission Profile with the patient and the wife, noting, among other things: “Previous hospitalizations/surgeries-microdiscectomy 2010, lumbar laminectomy 2009, with DVT after laminectomy; Comprehensive Pain Assessment­ pain scale 10, rectum, onset at 16 years old, burning; Cardiovascular-high blood pressure, weird heartbeat about 8 months ago at cardiologist; Hema/Hepatic/GI-hemorrhoids, fissure; Psychiatric-Anxiety; Social Habits-smoker 1 PPD [pack per day], alcohol 2-4 times per month.”

The general surgeon completed a Short Form history and physical for the patient, noting: “Chief Complaint-Anal pain; History of Present Illness-severe pain secondary to anal fissure. Past Medical/Surgical History: HTN [hypertension]; Current Medications and Allergies: See-home medication list; Physical Exam-Head/Neck-normal,-Airway normal,-Neuro normal, Chest/Lungs normal, Heart normal, GI normal, GU normal, Extremities normal; Significant findings-anal fissure with right posterior skin tag; Diagnosis-Anal fissure; Plan-fissurectomy, sphincterotomy, and hemorrhoidectomy; Pre-Sedation Assessment For Procedure Without an Anesthesiologist-ASA2 II – mild systemic disease.”

At 4:12 p.m., a patient provided a urine sample and blood was taken for labs. At 4:53 p.m., labs revealed normal sodium, potassium, hemoglobin, and hematocrit. At 5:11 p.m., a pre-anesthetic evaluation was completed on the patient by an anesthesiologist. At 5:29 p.m., the patient was placed under general anesthesia. At 5:46 p.m., the general surgeon performed a hemorrhoidectomy, fissurectomy, and a right lateral sphincterotomy on the patient. The surgery was completed at 6:42 p.m., and the patient was in the recovery room at 7:00 p.m. The general surgeon prescribed the patient “Norco 10/325 mg., one tablet every four hours, as needed for pain; Valium 2 mg., one every six hours, as needed for pain; and Toredal (sic) 10 mg., one every six hours.” At 8:15 p.m., The patient was discharged.

The general surgeon drafted an Operative Report, noting, among other things:

“Preoperative Diagnosis-anal fissure; Postoperative Diagnosis-anal fissure and hemorrhoids; Procedures Performed-hemorrhoidectomy, fissurectomy, right lateral internal sphincterotomy; Anesthesia-general; Findings-anal stenosis with deep posterior anal fissure with large 3-quadrent (sic) hemorrhoids in the usual distribution, in the right anterior quadrant hemorrhoidal group there with chronic strangulation and gangrenous changes.”

On 4/24/2014, Post-Surgical Day 1 (PSDl), the patient’s wife called the general surgeon’s office four times: at 9:46 a.m., 10:32 a.m., 3:10 p.m., and 4:38 p.m. At 9:46 a.m., the patient’s wife reported that the patient had blood in his urine; the patient’s wife was told that the patient had a urinary catheter during surgery and blood in the urine was normal on PSDI. At 10:32 a.m., the patient’s wife reported the patient was vomiting and had diarrhea; the patient’s wife was told this was normal for PSDl. At 3:10 p.m., the patient’s wife reported the patient was still vomiting; a prescription for Reglan (anti-nausea) was called in. The patient’s wife collected the prescription, but the patient could not keep the Reglan down.

At 4:38 p.m., the patient’s wife reported the patient was still vomiting, with diarrhea, and feels hot, although his temperature is normal; the patient’s wife was told that the symptoms are normal for PSDl, and get fluids into the patient. The general surgeon did not return the calls from the patient’s wife on 4/24/2014.

On 4/25/2014, Post-Surgical Day 2 {PSD2); at 5:58 p.m., the patient’s wife called the surgery center and reported the patient was still vomiting, with diarrhea, and feels hot; the patient’s wife was told the symptoms were normal for PSD2, but to call the general surgeon’s office. The patient’s wife called the general surgeon’s office, spoke to the answering service, and requested a callback.

At 6:40 p.m., the general surgeon telephoned the patient’s wife. The patient’s wife reported pus at the surgical site and that the stitches looked ripped open and yellow; the general surgeon said they were breakaway stitches and the appearance was normal for PSD2. They did not discuss the patient’ s symptoms from PSD 1.

On 4/26/2014, the patient began speaking nonsensically. He complained about pain in his legs. The patient’s wife called the general surgeon’s office at 12:36 p.m. and 12:40 p.m., but the office was closed for lunch and the patient’s wife did not leave a message with the exchange.

The patient’s wife then telephoned the surgery center at 12:46 p.m. and 12:47 p.m. The patient’s wife reported the patient was speaking nonsensically, with purple, blotchy legs, purple lips, and slurred speech; the patient’s wife was told to bring the patient into the hospital. At 12:58, 911 was called. Paramedics appeared and transported the patient to the surgery center.

The patient arrived at the surgery center at 1:35 p.m. In the ambulance, the patient was intubated and described by EMS as “acutely cyanotic and mottled.” Upon arrival, the patient was treated by an ED physician in the ED for two hours.

The ED physician drafted an ED Report, indicating, among other things: “This is a 36-year-old white male who comes to the emergency room by ambulance in extremis [at the point of death]. He was intubated in the field by the paramedics.”

“On arrival in the department he was purple mottled, unresponsive with a heart rate in the 60s which later proceeded to become bradycardic into the 20s.” ” … [A] temperature of 41 Centigrade [105.8 Fahrenheit] was noted.”

“Examination of the rectum revealed maceration and postoperative changes. It does appear consistent with an infection in the area.”

“Labs later returned showing renal failure with a creatinine of 9. Potassium was elevated.”

“Diagnosis-septic shock, renal failure, perineal infection, status post hemorrhoidectomy. His prognosis seems exceedingly poor.”

“Total critical care time 120 minutes.”

At 2:50 p.m., the ED physician contacted the general surgeon regarding the patient, reporting sepsis, renal failure, hyperlipidemia, recent hemorrhoidectomy with local infection. The general surgeon telephoned the surgery center to reserve an OR for the patient, scheduling the first available OR at 5 p.m.

At approximately 3:30 p.m., the patient was admitted to the surgery center and his care was transferred to an internist. After 5:00 p.m., the patient was taken to interventional radiology (IR) for placement of an IVC [inferior vena cava] filter (5:35 p.m.) and a temporary dialysis catheter (5:43 p.m.).

At 5:50 p.m., the patient was moved from IR into the OR, where the general surgeon waited. On arrival to the OR, the transport staff reported a change in heart rhythm. A Code Blue was called at 6:05 p.m. Resuscitative measures commenced but were unsuccessful, and time of death was called at 6:41 p.m.

The internist charted a Discharge Summary, noting: “Discharge Diagnosis-(1) patient died, (2) severe septic shock, (3) most likely perirectal phlegmon [inflammatory process with pus] versus fasciitis [inflammation of connective tissue]. History of Hospital Stay-This was a 36-year-old gentleman admitted at [the hospital] with septic shock. He was hypotensive, unresponsive, intubated in the field. While in the emergency room, the patient had episodes of bradycardia [abnormally slow heart action]. He was found to have multi-organ system failure with acute kidney insufficiency. He was taken to the OR for an emergent exploratory laparotomy [a surgical incision into the abdominal cavity, for diagnosis or in preparation for surgery]. Unfortunately, he coded on the OR table.”

The general surgeon wrote a Death Note in the chart, indicating: “Patient came in with septic shock. Code blue called in route to OR. CPR commenced in the OR per ACLS [advanced cardiac life support] protocol. Planned perineal debridement and colostomy never took place. Code was called after 22 min of resuscitative effort then resumed after seemingly having spontaneous cardiac electrical activity and pulse, but this was transient, and soon patient became pulseless without meaningful cardiac activity. Patient after hemorrhoidectomy and has perineal gangrene.”

An autopsy was performed on April 28, 2012, at the Fresno County Coroner’s Office. A blood culture was taken, revealing gram-negative rods isolated [bacterial infection]. The cause of death is listed as probable cardiac arrhythmia due to idiopathic hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

The general surgeon was placed on probation for three years with stipulations of completing an education course and undergoing monitoring by another physician.

State: California

Date: May 2017

Specialty: General Surgery, Internal Medicine

Symptom: GI Symptoms (GERD, Abdominal Distention, Dysphagia), Fever, Nausea Or Vomiting, Pain, Urinary Problems

Diagnosis: Sepsis

Medical Error: Delay in proper treatment, Failure of communication with patient or patient relations, Improper treatment

Significant Outcome: Death

Case Rating: 4

Link to Original Case File: Download PDF

California – Cardiology – CT Coronary Angiogram On Hemodynamically Compromised Patient For Chest Pain, Abnormal Electrocardiogram, Right Atrial Enlargement, And Elevated Cardiac Enzymes

On 4/16/2012, a 23-year-old female presented to the emergency department with chest pain, acute nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.  The patient had a history of pulmonary hypertension. Laboratory measurements were taken that revealed a hemoglobin of 17.2, hematocrit of 49.9, an acidotic pH of 7.12, an elevated WBC count of 15,900, potassium of 6.6, BUN of 31, and creatinine level of 1.4.  These measurements were consistent with mild renal insufficiency. An electrocardiogram test revealed sinus tachycardia, which was consistent with the findings of an electrocardiogram performed on the patient approximately 1 year earlier.

On 4/17/2012, the patient was admitted to the hospital.  The patient was initially treated with sodium bicarbonate to treat her lactic acidosis and IV fluids for dehydration.  The patient also received a dialysis catheter in her right femoral artery due to the increase in the BUN/creatinine measurements.  However, this catheter was never used.

On 4/17/2012, a cardiologist performed a telephonic cardiology consult with the hospitalist and ordered a CT coronary angiogram due to the patient’s chest pain, abnormal electrocardiogram, right atrial enlargement, and elevated cardiac enzymes (troponin).  The cardiologist also ordered 100 ml of ionic contrast to facilitate the CT angiogram despite the patient’s continued elevated BUN and creatinine levels. The cardiologist also ordered 50 mg of metoprolol orally and 5 mg intravenously to improve visualization on the CT angiogram despite the patient’s clinical condition.  The cardiologist did not perform a physical examination of the patient, measure the patient’s pulmonary pressure, or review the patient’s diagnostic or laboratory tests prior to ordering ionic contrast, CT angiogram, or administering metoprolol.

On 4/17/2012, the patient deteriorated and became hypotensive approximately 90 minutes after the CT angiogram and administration of metoprolol.  At approximately 8:00 p.m., the patient expired due to cardiac arrest.

The Medical Board of California judged that the obstetrician’s conduct departed from the standard of care because he failed to physically examine the patient prior to ordering a potentially dangerous procedure and drugs, review the patient’s previous diagnostic testing and laboratory testing prior to ordering a potentially dangerous procedure and drugs, and order a pulmonary artery catheter to measure pulmonary pressure in a hemodynamically compromised patient.

The Medical Board of California placed the cardiologist on probation for 3 years and ordered the cardiologist to complete a medical record keeping course and an education course (at least 40 hours per year for each year of probation).  The cardiologist was also assigned a practice monitor.

State: California

Date: March 2017

Specialty: Cardiology

Symptom: Chest Pain, Diarrhea, Nausea Or Vomiting

Diagnosis: Cardiovascular Disease, Renal Disease, Sepsis

Medical Error: Failure to examine or evaluate patient properly, Failure to order appropriate diagnostic test, Improper medication management

Significant Outcome: Death

Case Rating: 5

Link to Original Case File: Download PDF

Florida – Emergency Medicine – Fever, Cough, Sore Throat, And Shortness Of Breath With An Oxygen Saturation Of 91%

On 1/30/2013, a 33-year-old female presented to an ED physician with complaints of fever, cough, and sore throat, which began three days prior.  The patient also complained of shortness of breath.

The ED physician obtained the patient’s vital signs and performed a physical exam.

The ED physician noted the patient’s pulse oximetry was 91%.  He interpreted the patient’s pulse oximetry as “mild desaturation.”

The ED physician noted the patient’s heart rate was 129.  On cardiac exam, he found the patient to be tachycardic.

The ED physician ordered lab work.  The patient’s white blood cell count was found to be elevated at 20.4.  The patient was also found to have bandemia.

The ED physician ordered a chest x-ray.  He interpreted the chest x-ray as showing no infiltrate and no acute disease.  However, the radiologist later reported the chest x-ray as showing right middle lobe infiltrate worrisome for pneumonia.

The patient was administered ketorolac, acetaminophen, and intravenous fluids.

On re-evaluation, the ED physician noted that the patient had diffuse wheezing.

The ED physician discharged the patient home with a diagnosis of viral syndrome, cough, febrile illness, leukocytosis, and tobacco abuse.

The patient’s presentation was consistent with possible septicemia.

On 2/2/2013, the patient returned to the emergency department with complaints of high fever, cough with sputum, and shortness of breath.

The patient was subsequently diagnosed with bilateral pneumonia, septic shock, acute kidney injury, acute respiratory failure, bilateral pleural effusions, and pneumothorax, requiring admission to the hospital, and later transfer to the ICU, for approximately twenty days.

The Medical Board of Florida judged the ED physician’s conduct to be below the minimal standard of competence given that he failed to evaluate, or failed to document evaluating the patient’s septicemia.  He also failed to check, or failed to document checking the patient’s lactate level.  He failed to obtain, or failed to document obtaining blood cultures for the patient.  He failed to treat, or failed to document treating the patient for septicemia.  The ED physician failed to administer, or failed to document administering, IV antibiotics for the patient.  He also failed to recheck, or failed to document rechecking the patient’s vital signs prior to discharging her home.  He failed to admit, or failed to document admitting the patient to the hospital.

The Medical Board of Florida issued a letter of concern against the ED physician’s license.  The Medical Board of Florida ordered that the ED physician pay a fine of $5,500 against his license and pay reimbursement costs for the case at a minimum of $2,004.13 but not to exceed $4,004.13.  The Medical Board of Florida also ordered that the ED physician complete five hours of continuing medical education in diagnosis of septicemia and five hours of continuing medical education in “risk management.”

State: Florida

Date: February 2017

Specialty: Emergency Medicine

Symptom: Fever, Cough, Head/Neck Pain, Shortness of Breath

Diagnosis: Pneumonia, Sepsis, Pulmonary Disease, Pneumothorax

Medical Error: Diagnostic error, Failure to examine or evaluate patient properly, Failure to order appropriate diagnostic test, Referral failure to hospital or specialist, Lack of proper documentation

Significant Outcome: Hospital Bounce Back

Case Rating: 4

Link to Original Case File: Download PDF

California – Internal Medicine – Rectal Cancer With Metastatic Disease, Fall, And A Perineal Wound

In July 2013, a patient was diagnosed with rectal cancer with metastasis to the liver.  He was treated with chemotherapy.  His course was complicated by colovesical fistula and scrotal abscess.

On 2/4/2014, the patient underwent a laparoscopic diverting colostomy.  He had further chemotherapy after this operation.

On 7/7/2014, the patient went to Internist A’s office.  At that time, the patient’s medication regimen included a fentanyl patch, hydrocodone-acetaminophen, hydromorphone, valium, zolpidem, and oxycodone-acetaminophen.  Adderall was not listed as a prescribed medication in the patient’s medical records.

On 7/22/2014, the patient was admitted to the medical center after a fall at home.  The accompanying diagnosis included syncope, dehydration, volume depletion, generalized weakness, and perineal wound.  During that hospital stay, the patient was found to have streptococcal bacteremia, for which he was treated with intravenous antibiotics.  In the emergency department’s record from the medical center, Adderall was listed in his prior to admission medication list.  It was continued in the inpatient setting and carried over with his discharge orders at the time of transfer to a skilled nursing facility. Internist A did not perform a medication reconciliation when the patient’s care was transitioned.

On 8/2/2014, the patient was discharged from the hospital.  At that time, his medication regimen was as follows:  Adderall 20 mg daily; zolpidem 10 mg at bedtime; fentanyl patch 25 mcg every 72 hours; oxycodone 10-20 mg every 4 hours as needed; and diazepam 5 mg daily as needed.  Based on the patient’s wife’s concern, the physician covering for Internist A discontinued the Adderall and the fentanyl patch.  However, the discharge summary makes no mention of discharge medications.  The patient was transitioned to a skilled nursing facility for continuation of intravenous antibiotics.  He received physical therapy/occupational therapy there and intravenous antibiotics.  He subsequently developed a fever.

On 9/18/2014, the patient was transferred back to the emergency department for tachycardia and was admitted to the hospital.

On 9/25/2014, the patient was discharged home with his spouse under hospice care.  On 10/1/2014, the patient expired at home.

While at the skilled nursing facility, the patient’s wife was concerned that the patient was on too many medications, that he was not required to ambulate, and that is dentures were lost, which impaired his oral intake.  During this period of time, the patient’s wife made multiple phone calls to Internist A, attempting to express her concerns about the care provided to her husband, but was unable to speak to Internist A.  Internist A failed to communicate with the wife regarding her husband’s condition.

The Board felt that Internist A had practiced below the standard of care given failure to perform medication reconciliation at transitions of care.  He failed to fulfill his responsibility as a treating clinician to update the patient’s wife.  He failed to maintain accurate and adequate medical records.  The patient’s perineal wound was not mentioned in his admissions notes or in subsequent follow-up notes.

The Board issued a reprimand against Internist A.  He was ordered to comply with attending a course in medical record keeping.

State: California

Date: February 2017

Specialty: Internal Medicine, Hospitalist

Symptom: Weakness/Fatigue, Fever

Diagnosis: Sepsis, Colon Cancer

Medical Error: Failure of communication with patient or patient relations, Improper medication management, Lack of proper documentation

Significant Outcome: Hospital Bounce Back

Case Rating: 1

Link to Original Case File: Download PDF

North Carolina – Nephrology – Deciding To Initiate Vancomycin For Patient With Prior History Of Tachycardia And Dyspnea After Receiving Vancomycin

The Board was notified of a professional liability payment made on 6/5/15.

A 31-year-old male with end-stage renal disease presented to the emergency department with cough, fever, and acute pain.  The initial diagnosis was sepsis.  He was given cefazolin and gentamicin.  The patient’s allergy history was noted to include penicillin and vancomycin.

The patient subsequently underwent two transfers of care.  During these transfers, it was indicated by various physicians that the patient would require intravenous vancomycin to treat sepsis.  Given the patient’s ambiguous allergy history, the evening hospitalist made the decision to defer to a nephrologist the decision regarding the treatment of the patient with vancomycin as the nephrologist had treated the patient in the past.  As the patient’s nephrologist, he was aware that the patient had received vancomycin in the past both intravenously and intraperitoneally.  The patient had previously developed tachycardia and dyspnea after receiving vancomycin.  The nephrologist had concluded that the patient’s reaction to the most recent exposure to vancomycin was not a true allergic reaction, but rather “red man syndrome” and that the patient now required vancomycin to successfully treat the sepsis.  Within minutes of the start of the vancomycin infusion, the patient developed tachycardia, dyspnea, and ultimately cardiac arrest from which he could not be revived.

The Board expressed concern that the nephrologist’s care of the patient fell below the standard of care.

The Board issued a public letter of concern, which was reported to the Federation of State Medical Boards.  It was not reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank.

State: North Carolina

Date: February 2017

Specialty: Nephrology

Symptom: Fever, Cough

Diagnosis: Sepsis

Medical Error: Improper medication management, Underestimation of likelihood or severity

Significant Outcome: Death

Case Rating: 4

Link to Original Case File: Download PDF

California – Hospitalist – Post-Operative Complications Of Tachycardia, Abdominal Swelling, And Respiratory Distress After Knee Replacement Surgery

On 12/5/2011, a patient underwent knee replacement surgery.  In the course of his post-operative recovery in the hospital, the patient developed a rapid heartbeat.

On 12/6/2011, he was seen by Hospitalist A in the morning.  Hospitalist A attributed the patient’s rapid heart rate to his pre-existing atrial fibrillation and ordered an oral beta-blocker.  The patient’s heart rate was soon restored to a more moderate level.  The patient was transferred to the telemetry unit for closer monitoring at about 11:00 a.m.  Hospitalist A saw the patient again the following morning, noting that the patient was on nasally-administered supplemental oxygen, that his cardiac rhythm was irregular, that he was anemic, and that he had diminished bilateral breath sounds.  The hospitalist ordered chest x-rays and a blood transfusion.  The hospitalist’s order for a chest x-ray read “?chf” under “Indications.”

On 12/8/2017 at 8:40 a.m., nursing notes stated that the patient was receiving 2 liters of oxygen per minute via nasal cannula and his oxygen saturation level was 94%.  Hospitalist A’s chart entries made at about 10:40 a.m. indicate the patient was anemic, displayed some mental confusion, and had abdominal distention.  Hospitalist A opined that the distention “(m)ay be ileus due to oral morphine SR plus PRNs But r/o bleeding.”

Hospitalist A ordered x-rays of the patient’s abdomen, which confirmed the presence of an intestinal ileus.  Hospitalist A did not obtain a CT scan of the patient’s abdomen.  At about 3:50 p.m., Hospitalist A directed a nasogastric tube be placed to decompress the ileus.  Nursing notes from that evening indicate that the patient’s abdomen was “very distended, rounded” with hypoactive bowel sounds.

On 12/9/2017 at 2:30 a.m., a chart entry by Hospitalist B noted that the patient was “extremely uncomfortable with increased abdominal distention.”  She ordered a Harris flush procedure to reduce the patient’s intestinal pressure.

On 12/9/2017 at 3:58 p.m., the patient’s oxygen monitor alarm was sounding.  His oxygen saturation was 74% despite 2 liters per minute of supplemental oxygen.  Nurses repositioned the patient in bed and increased the oxygen flow rate to 5 liters per minute.  The indicated oxygen saturation increased to 88%.  The nasal cannula was moved to the patient’s mouth and the indicated oxygen saturation increased to 91-93%.  Hospitalist A was notified of the patient’s condition.

At 4:30 p.m., the attending nurse again called Hospitalist A to report that the patient was extremely short of breath with “labored” respirations and an indicated oxygen saturation “in the low to mid 80s.”  Hospitalist A directed that the patient be repositioned higher in bed; the nurse informed Hospitalist A that the patient was in the highest possible position.  Hospitalist A gave no new orders regarding the patient’s care.

The attending nurse’s chart entry for 5:10 p.m. states the following:

“(p)t’s condition continues to worsen.  Pt unable to hold O2 sats about low to mid 80’s on 5 liters NC.  Respiratory called to put on non-rebreather mask.  Pt’s LOC is decreased.  Pt repositioned up in bed.  NG tube flushed.  Pt requiring one-to-one nursing care.  Follow-up call to break and relief nurse’s call to [Hospitalist A] to ask that he come to the floor to see pt, d/t pt’s deteriorating respiratory status.  [Hospitalist A] still not answering the phone.”

The attending nurse placed a “Rapid Response” call to summon a physician to assess the patient at 5:20 p.m.  Hospitalist A came to the patient’s room, and his notes state that the patient’s oxygen saturation improved when he was repositioned in bed, “up to the 90s and stayed above 92” per measurement by the respiratory care provider.  Hospitalist A decided to continue with the current treatment on the medical floor rather than transferring the patient to the intensive care unit.

The medical record indicates that at 5:50 p.m., the patient’s oxygen saturation level is “in the 90’s but the O2 sat is variable with sat going down into the 80’s.”  The patient was still receiving supplemental oxygen via the 100% non-rebreathing mask.  The nursing notes for this time state that the patient’s daughter, a nurse, believed the patient should be monitored in the intensive care unit rather than on the medical floor and conveyed that desire for transfer to nursing staff, the nursing supervisor, and to Hospitalist A.

Nursing notes for 6:45 p.m. state the following:

“BP 92/63 HR 120’s.  Pt minimally responsive, respirations increasingly labored.  Telemetry and O2 sat monitors frequently alarming.  Pt requiring RN at bedside at all times.  pt hands cyanotic and remain cool to touch and forehead now appears slightly bluish in color.  [Hospitalist A] aware.  Family tearful, verbalizing anger w/staff regarding pt not being transferred to ICU.”

At 7:05 p.m., Hospitalist B ordered the patient to be transferred to the intensive care unit, apparently in deference to the fact that the “family, rn, supervisor want the pt moved to icu though it was discussed with all by the rounding hbs that there are not criteria for icu…”  The patient was taken to the intensive care unit at about 7:35 p.m.

The intensive care nurse’s notes state that the patient arrived at the ICU unresponsive with his oxygen saturation reading in the 70% range despite being on 15 liters of supplemental oxygen per minute via non-rebreather mask.  The patient’s fingers and toes were cyanotic and his body mottled.

On 12/10/2011 at 3:10 a.m., the patient died despite additional care.

The Board expressed concern that Hospitalist A practiced below the standard of care by failing to order an abdominal CT scan in a patient with an identified bowel obstruction that was not responding to care.  He failed to recognize clinical indicators of early septic shock and make a timely transfer of the patient to a higher level of care.  He failed to recognize and respond to the patient’s acute respiratory distress.

The Board issued a public reprimand.  He was ordered to take a course in early recognition of septic shock.

State: California

Date: January 2017

Specialty: Hospitalist, Internal Medicine

Symptom: Shortness of Breath, GI Symptoms (GERD, Abdominal Distention, Dysphagia)

Diagnosis: Sepsis, Acute Abdomen

Medical Error: Delay in proper treatment, Diagnostic error, Failure to order appropriate diagnostic test, Failure of communication with patient or patient relations, Failure to properly monitor patient

Significant Outcome: Death

Case Rating: 3

Link to Original Case File: Download PDF

California – Orthopedic Surgery – MRSA Bacteremia With Swelling And Erythema Of The Left Knee

On 6/11/2014, a 20-year-old male at that time presented to an emergency department with left knee pain and swelling of the left leg.  On 6/15/2014, Orthopedic Surgeon A provided an orthopedic consultation, which was requested by the admitting physician to rule out infection in the knee.  In his exam, Orthopedic Surgeon A noted swelling around the left leg area, satisfactory circulation of the left lower extremity, a mildly tender left leg, and definite tenderness over the tibia.  Diffuse tenderness over the left knee and no obvious swelling were noted.  The range of movement for the left knee was painful from full extension to beyond 90 degrees; otherwise, the knee was stable.

Orthopedic Surgeon A reviewed an x-ray of the left knee finding no obvious swelling and an essentially normal exam.  No complaint of an acute infection was found on the tibia or knee by the orthopedic surgeon. Orthopedic Surgeon A’s impression was a healed fracture of the left tibia with tibial nailing with positive blood culture for infection. Orthopedic Surgeon A’s aspiration of the left knee did not show any pus and very little serosanguinous fluid was aspirated, the fluid was sent for culture and sensitivity. Orthopedic Surgeon A did not feel the patient needed aggressive orthopedic treatment, and his plan was for the patient to be treated for infection as per the infectious disease specialist’s recommendations.

On 6/17/2014, an internal medicine physician noted that the patient had severe sepsis due to methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus bacteremia.  The patient was receiving IV vancomycin; however, he continued to have persistent bacteremia, which was suspected to be secondary to the knee.  The internal medicine physician attempted to have Orthopedic Surgeon A evaluate the patient on that day; however, Orthopedic Surgeon A felt there was no needed to see the patient on 6/17/2014.  The internal medicine physician then requested a second opinion from Orthopedic Surgeon B.

On 6/17/2014, the patient was examined by Orthopedic Surgeon B.  Upon his exam, Orthopedic Surgeon B noted a circumferential anterior cellulitis type of finding on the anterior left knee and that the skin appeared to be indurated in this region.  Orthopedic Surgeon B’s impression was left knee infection, possible prepatellar bursitis.  Orthopedic Surgeon B was not convinced that the aspiration performed by Orthopedic Surgeon A was in the knee joint as he saw the location of the aspiration was directly through the red prepatellar bursa region.  Orthopedic Surgeon B found that the patient would likely need surgery for treatment of infection.  However, the treatment would depend on whether the patient had prepatellar bursitis or septic knee.  Orthopedic Surgeon B noted that he called Orthopedic Surgeon A on 6/17/2014 in an attempt to discuss his findings.  However, Orthopedic Surgeon A did not feel the need to follow up with the patient that day.

On 6/18/2014, Orthopedic Surgeon A examined the patient for the second time.  Orthopedic Surgeon A noted redness over the anterior surface of the knee.  He did not find any evidence of prepatellar bursitis except for redness and noted that there was diffuse tenderness around the left knee.  Orthopedic Surgeon A reviewed an MRI of the knee, finding synovitis with effusion.  Orthopedic Surgeon A aspirated the knee again, obtaining 2 ml of bloody fluid and finding no evidence of pus.  Based on the MRI and his evaluation, Orthopedic Surgeon A’s impression was that the patient had hypertrophic synovitis with effusion of the left knee per MRI.  Orthopedic Surgeon A’s plan was for the patient to be treated with IV antibiotics as recommended by the infectious disease specialist until the infection was under control.  Orthopedic Surgeon A did not recommend surgery of the left knee.

Orthopedic Surgeon B also reviewed the MRI of the left knee and found a large effusion with evidence of soft tissue edema.  Orthopedic Surgeon B noticed a clear abscess in subcutaneous tissue and loculated fluid in the knee joint.  Orthopedic Surgeon B’s impression was severe sepsis due to probable left septic knee and possible secondary cellulitis over the left knee.  Accordingly, on 6/18/2014, the patient underwent a left knee arthroscopy, incision and drainage with lavage of the left knee joint; left knee arthroscopy; synovectomy; left knee arthroscopy and synovial biopsy; left knee prepatellar bursa incision and drainage; and left knee proximal tibia hardware removal of one single locking bolt of tibia intramedullary nail.

Orthopedic Surgeon B’s findings included positive gross pus in the prepatellar bursa consistent with prepatellar bursa and abscess of 150 ml of gross pus; positive gross pus and left knee joint synovitis; and medial proximal locking bolt of tibia intramedullary nail exposed in the prepatellar bursa region.

The Board reprimanded Orthopedic Surgeon A and ordered him to complete 20 hours of a continuing medical education course in reading and interpreting MRI’s.

State: California

Date: January 2017

Specialty: Orthopedic Surgery, Internal Medicine

Symptom: Joint Pain, Swelling

Diagnosis: Septic Arthritis, MRSA, Sepsis

Medical Error: Diagnostic error

Significant Outcome: N/A

Case Rating: 4

Link to Original Case File: Download PDF

Washington – General Surgery – Right Upper Quadrant Mass And Abdominal Pain With Suspicion For Hernia In Obese Patient With Thrombocytopenia

A patient’s primary care physician (PCP) referred her to a general surgeon for a right upper quadrant mass after suspecting a hernia.  In his written referral to the general surgeon, the PCP stated that the patient’s present illness was “Abdominal pain in RUQ from hernia…Refer to surgeon to evaluate RUQ mass/pain.”

In October 2008, the general surgeon examined the patient and noted that the patient presented with “a painful bulge in the R lateral abdominal wall,” she was 75 years old, 5’4” tall, 240 pounds, and suffered from hypertension.  The pre-operative note also indicated that the patient would not accept a blood transfusion.  This is significant considering that the patient’s pre-operative laboratory report showed a low platelet count of 84,000.

Although the patient had been experiencing significant pain and her PCP had suspected and noted the likelihood of a hernia, the general surgeon believed the abdominal mass to be a lipoma.  The general surgeon did not obtain any pre-operative image studies.  Instead, the general surgeon scheduled the patient for surgery at an outpatient, ambulatory surgery center, where he works.  The general surgeon did not take into account that complex hernia repairs that require bowel repair or resection are not appropriate for same day surgical procedures and outpatient centers are not equipped for such procedures.  At a minimum, without a preoperative image study, the general surgeon should have scheduled the patient for surgery at the hospital so that whatever issue was encountered could be properly addressed.

In November 2008, the general surgeon attempted surgery on the patient at the ambulatory surgery center.  The general surgeon used the subcostal approach and discovered that in fact, the patient had a hernia and not the lipoma he had anticipated.  A hernia was stuck to the undersurface of the abdominal area where the general surgeon found dense adhesions.

The surgery had to be stopped 25 minutes after its start because the surgery center lacked the instrumentation and equipment for hernia surgery.  As a result of the more difficult and involved surgery required, the conscious sedation started by the anesthesiologist was insufficient to control the patient’s discomfort, and a laryngeal mask airway was needed and provided.  The patient was immediately transferred by ambulance to the hospital.

The surgery center’s anesthesiologist’s report stated that the patient had a “likely bowel perforation.” If the anesthesiologist’s note is correct, the requisite delay in repairing the perforation could potentially expose the patient to an increased risk of wound infection.  A bowel perforation requires emergent repair, and any delay poses serious consequences.

The general surgeon denied perforating the patient’s bowel during the surgery at the surgery center but his own hospital admission report states that the patient had “a probable perforation of the hepatic flexure.”  The hospital’s report also contains a contradicting note where the general surgeon states that the patient had begun outpatient surgery to remove a right-sided abdominal mass which “ended up perforating bowel.”  This hospital’s report further acknowledged that the patient was admitted for “bowel resection as this could not be done at the surgery center.”

At the hospital, the general surgeon undertook the more extensive surgery which confirmed that the bowel was perforated.  The general surgeon performed this second surgery with a subcostal retroperitoneal approach despite his recognition of dense adhesions and presumed bowel injury, as well as the earlier difficulty in exposing the large hernia in the morbidly obese patient.

The general surgeon’s discharge summary states that the patient had experienced purulent drainage from her incision.  However, the general surgeon did not document his evaluation of the patient’s wound prior to discharging the patient from the hospital, nor did the general surgeon document the patient’s complaint of pain.  The general surgeon discharged the patient to a rehabilitation center.

Within 24 hours of discharge, the patient immediately returned to the hospital by ambulance with a grossly infected wound.  The patient appeared septic, experienced constant, intense pain, with fever, chills and brown, bilious-colored material draining from her surgical incision.

A CT scan showed draining fecal matter in her right abdomen.  The patient stated that her abdominal pain and wound drainage began three days prior to discharge from the hospital.  The scan also revealed the patient had a significant intra-abdominal process that likely festered for some time.  This fact raises the possibility that the drainage in the abdominal wound was the continuum of a process that was occurring intra-abdominally.

The patient returned for a third surgery.  The general surgeon again performed the surgery, this time using a midline incision.  The general surgeon described the surgery as mildly bloody.  During this surgery, in a purulent area in the right side of the abdomen, the general surgeon identified a perforation in the patient’s colon which was leaking air.  The general surgeon resected the patient’s colon and broke down some hard adhesions.  Because of the extensive peritonitis that had developed, the patient had to have a colostomy.  The patient’s health rapidly declined following the third surgery.

The patient died less than thirty days after the general surgeon’s initial surgery.  The general surgeon prepared the death certificate, and he failed to accurately reflect that the patient died of multi-organ system failure as a consequence of a bowel perforation that occurred from his abdominal surgery to repair a hernia.  There was no mention for reason of organ failure and the only pathology mentioned were various organ system failures that occurred just before death.  A death certificate should accurately reflect the course of events leading up to a patient’s demise.  The general surgeon neglected to properly document the actual cause of the patient’s death.

The Commission stipulated the general surgeon reimburse costs to the Commission, arrange for the manager of the Quality Review Committee at all facilities where he provides patient care to submit quarterly reports addressing whether any surgical cases involving the general surgeon were discussed at the Quality Review Committee meetings,  and write and submit a paper of at least 1500 words, with annotated bibliography, discussing the Communication and Resolution Program (CRP) principles and the importance of integrating these principles into practice.

State: Washington

Date: January 2017

Specialty: General Surgery

Symptom: Abdominal Pain

Diagnosis: Post-operative/Operative Complication, Sepsis, Procedural Site Infection

Medical Error: Underestimation of likelihood or severity, Failure to examine or evaluate patient properly, Lack of proper documentation, Procedural error

Significant Outcome: Death, Hospital Bounce Back

Case Rating: 5

Link to Original Case File: Download PDF

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