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Sommers Schwartz attorneys Richard Groffsky and Matthew L. Turner filed a medical malpractice action for the wrongful death of a patient who was given a dangerous and inappropriate medication for a patient with a tumor on her adrenal gland.
The 19-year-old decedent went to defendant Blessing Hospital’s emergency room complaining of a headache that radiated down her neck into her chest as well as shortness of breath and vomiting.
The defendant ER physician ordered a CT scan of the patient’s chest, which showed a five-centimeter mass along the right lobe of her liver. Believing it was adrenal in origin, the radiologist included the possibility of a pheochromocytoma, a neuroendocrine tumor causing a rapid heartbeat. The radiologist also recommended further evaluation with biochemical testing and indicated that more imaging studies would likely be required. Despite the radiologist’s recommendations, the ER doctor did not order or perform any biochemical testing or additional imaging studies.
Defendant Barnes-Jewish Hospital was contacted, and two doctors were consulted regarding the patient’s condition. They recommended the patient be given Esmolol, a beta blocker, to alleviate her cardiac strain. The patient went into cardiac arrest just 30 minutes after receiving the Esmolol, and CPR was started. She died the next day.
The complaint alleges that starting a beta blocker is contraindicated in a patient with a suspected pheochromocytoma; instead, the decedent should have first been treated with an alpha blocker. Had the decedent first received an alpha blocker along with supportive and surgical treatment, or if she were immediately transferred to a hospital capable of providing such treatment, the young woman would have survived.
The decedent’s estate alleges that the ER physician failed to appreciate the decedent’s presenting symptoms were most likely the result of an adrenergic crisis secondary to a suspected pheochromocytoma and should not have given the Esmolol. The physicians who were consulted at Barnes-Jewish Hospital should never have recommended that Esmolol be given.
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