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We represented a 54-year-old woman from Fayette County who lost her leg following an elective, ankle replacement surgery at a Pittsburgh hospital. The surgery was performed on a Friday, and her surgeon went away for the weekend. With this type of procedure, it is crucial that the patient is closely monitored in the days after surgery to make sure the patient is having adequate blood flow to the operated extremity.
Over the course of the weekend, the hospital nurses documented that our client began to experience loss of feeling and movement in the toes of her operative leg. Her toes progressively became colder. The color of her toes went from pink, to gray, to her toes turning a dark purple. Within two days of the surgery, the nurses began having difficulty assessing a pulse in our client's foot. In summary, classic signs that our client was experiencing vascular insufficiency or a lack of blood flow to her foot. These findings were reported to both in-hospital physicians and junior physicians within the surgical practice, but no action was taken, and no diagnostic testing was conducted over the weekend. When the surgeon saw the patient the following Monday morning, he realized the potential problem and ordered that our client undergo an arteriogram, a diagnostic test to assess blood flow. Unfortunately, the test was not ordered STAT, or immediately, and another twelve hours elapsed before the test was performed.
The test showed that our client had developed multiple occlusions of her vessels in and around the site of her ankle surgery, effectively shutting off the blood flow to her foot. At this point, a vascular surgeon was immediately contacted, and our client was rushed into surgery to try to restore circulation to her foot and lower leg. Unfortunately, the extent of tissue death was too extensive, and ultimately, our client had to undergo an amputation of her leg from below the knee. Eventually, she was fitted with a prosthetic leg and foot.
We brought a medical malpractice suit in Allegheny County against the surgeon and the hospital for the negligent delay, diagnosis and treatment of our client's condition. With the support of a vascular expert, we were able to establish that had our client's complication been diagnosed and treatment in a timely fashion, she would likely have not suffered the loss of her limb. One day before trial was scheduled to begin, the insurance company for both the surgeon and the hospital paid a substantial settlement. Before these events, our client was fully employed, working as an aide assisting the mentally and physically disabled in a medical facility. Our client attempted, but was unable to return to gainful employment given the physical requirements of her job. This settlement of over a million dollars allowed our client to retire without facing the economic hardship that the Defendants' negligence caused.