Blood clots kill more patients each year than AIDS and breast cancer combined, according to the American College of Chest Physicians. Death from pulmonary embolism is common but usually preventable. Usually the process takes days to weeks to develop.
Sometimes smaller pulmonary embolisms can get far enough into the lung arteries that they cause shortness of breath, but not a complete collapse of circulation. These can be warning signs that a bigger embolism may be on the way.
Here are some of the medical malpractice issues for blood clots and pulmonary embolism:
- Failure to prevent the blood clots from forming in the legs. In medicine this is called deep vein thrombosis (DVT) prophylaxis. It’s standard of care to treat any patient who is going to be immobilized for any length of time with various strategies. That includes moving the patient out of bed as soon as possible, pressure stockings that massage the calves rhythmically, and blood-thinning medicines.
- Failure to diagnose that a patient has clots in the legs. We list below some of the common signs and symptoms of these clots or DVT’s. The diagnosis is usually made with an ultrasound or Doppler device that images the veins in the thighs. Early detection of clots is the next best thing to preventing them completely.
- Failure to treat clots in the legs correctly so they don’t get bigger and move to the lungs. Our firm prosecuted a successful medical malpractice case against a surgeon in Maryland who didn’t give his patient an adequate dose of blood-thinning drug, and then put off insertion of a protective device called a Greenfield filter, which acts as an umbrella to block large clots from traveling to the heart. There are many other issues in the way blood clots get treated that need to be evaluated in each case.
- Failure to realize the patient is showing early signs of pulmonary embolism. Another medical malpractice lawsuit successfully prosecuted by Patrick Malone & Associates involved this situation. Here’s an article on our patient safety blog about the case, where poor patient education proved fatal to our client’s loved one.
Here are three main tips for preventing harm from pulmonary embolism – a lethal but usually preventable killer.
- In the hospital, ask what the blood clot prevention strategy is. An amazing percentage of time it is forgotten by providers busy with other work. Read More…
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