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March 2013 Archives

Chargers' medical staff cleared in concussion case

Massachusetts Patriots fans may have heard about the recent investigation into the San Diego Chargers' medical staff. A panel of independent doctors has found that the Chargers' medical staff handled a concussion case appropriately. A former Pro Bowl player who suffered a brain injury when he endured a helmet-to-helmet hit during a 2011 game continued to play even though he was having trouble keeping his balance. He was later diagnosed with a concussion and suffered a grand mal seizure during a flight back to San Diego. His football career ended that day as he never played again. The NFL and the NFL players union requested an examination into the medical care provided to the player, particularly by the team doctor who already has had several malpractice complaints off the field. The union wanted the doctor removed from his position as team physician.

Jury awards malpractice plaintiff $250,000

A jury awarded $250,000 in damages to a man who claimed he did not receive appropriate treatment after gall bladder surgery. The case against Hershey Medical Center involved surgical errors that the plaintiff claimed led to a severe hernia, necessitating further operations and permanent disability. While most hospitals in Boston and throughout the United States have safety procedures in place to prevent patient harm, individuals do not necessarily follow those procedures. In this case, the plaintiff claimed that the lack of proper post-operative supervision caused his injuries. The defendants contended that all proper medical decisions were made. The hospital allegedly rejected a pretrial offer to settle the case for $100,000. There is no word on whether the hospital plans to appeal the decision.

Misplaced sponges and instruments can lead to problems patients

Officially called "retained surgical items," sponges and instruments accidentally left inside patients' bodies during surgeries and sealed inside are a potentially fatal form of surgeon malpractice. Massachusetts residents may have heard about the Alabama woman who had a caesarian section in 2010. A surgical sponge that was used during the procedure was left inside her abdomen, and it caused her stomach to swell and caused her bowels to shut down. Six weeks after the caesarian section, she had to undergo a six-hour emergency surgery to remove the sponge and then six weeks of hospitalization. In other cases of retained surgical items, patients go months or even years with severe or debilitating pains before it is determined that the causes are errors that were made on the operating tables. It is often the case that an infection will have developed by the time the lost item is discovered and removed, and in some cases, the patients suffer lifelong complications or die as a direct result of the foreign objects inside them. 

Auto-immune response after brain injury may explain degeneration

Massachusetts residents who have suffered a brain injury may be interested in recent studies that shine a new light on the subject. According to recent research by the Cleveland Clinic and the University of Rochester Medical Center, degeneration of the brain may be caused by a significant auto-immune response that occurs after repeated brain trauma. This is an effect that may be similar to what occurs in multiple sclerosis patients. Such repeated head trauma is common in soldiers as well as football players. According to the article, the identification of this over-active immune response is important because it may lead to the advancement of improved treatment options for head injury trauma patients. This research was based on a study conducted by URMC that involved almost 70 college football players. The study showed that a protein biomarker that was associated with those who had experienced traumatic brain injury was present in the blood samples of all of those football players who participated in the research project after the game. This suggests that varying degrees of impact may affect the brain. 

Increase in laser surgery errors

A study by doctors from Harvard Medical School in Massachusetts has found that more and more legal claims are being made against physicians who perform laser surgery. Some of the physicians who are being sued are not even the individuals who made the surgical errors or operated the laser device.According to the study, 174 cases have arisen from hair removal, facial rejuvenation and similar procedures during the last 25 years. Out of these cases, the physician performed the procedure in 100 of them. However, a physician was named as a defendant in 146 of the procedures. Researchers used information from a large legal database regarding cases and verdicts that occurred between 1985 and 2012. The individuals who were responsible for performing the procedure came from a variety of specialties, including surgeons, dermatologists and obstetricians. Nurses and aesteticians performed 40 percent of the procedures included in the study.

IT solution shown to reduce medication errors

A study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association found that implementation of a single information-technology tool in clinical settings could have a profound effect on the quality of patient care in Massachusetts and across the country. Computerized provider order entry, or CPOE, has been in use for years, but according to researchers, the rate of adoption remains "modest" despite a financial incentive included in the HITECH Act.The meta-analysis found that exclusive use of CPOE in a clinical setting could reduce medication errors by as much as 48 percent. Researchers went further by calculating the total benefit in decreased errors that could be attributed to CPOE use in 2008. They found that CPOE use eliminated what would have otherwise been an additional 17.4 million medication errors that year. Prior research by the Institute of Medicine uncovered an average rate of one medication error per day per patient.

Massachusetts birth injury leads to settlement 11 years later

Birth defects can affect every aspect of a child's life and those of family members. Defects resulting from a birth injury can result in pain and suffering, the need for long-term care and extraordinary medical expenses. In Massachusetts, a mother filed a malpractice suit for negligence that led to a $5 million settlement for her son.The problem began when the mother noticed a decrease in fetal activity, which is a warning sign to consult with a health care provider. The mother was seen by a nurse and a student. During the examination, the nurse left the student alone to conduct tests. These tests uncovered warning signs that would alarm a medical professional and be grounds for further testing and immediate medical intervention. Instead, the woman was sent home and called back to the office the next day.

New website informs Massachusetts patients and doctors

A Massachusetts state law enacted in 2012 requires physicians to make their medical errors available to the public; this law also permits physicians who make mistakes to apologize without having to face medical malpractice lawsuits. Physicians, hospital directors, insurance agents and patients alike can visit a recently launched website that seeks to clarify some of the issues found in the newly approved law. The complexity of medical liability claims in the face of the 2012 law may have necessitated, created by the Massachusetts Alliance for Communication and Resolution.When a surgeon makes serious surgical errors during a surgical procedure, the patient has a legal right to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against the doctor. The new website and law are part of an integrated system called CARE that is being adopted by facilities statewide in a seeming attempt to cut down on malpractice suits by addressing errors and adverse effects internally. Patients are still permitted to file a claim, however, and the website encourages legal representation in the event that a claim is made through the CARE system or outside of it.