This 65 year old patient underwent graft surgery of her aorta artery because
she had had an aneurysm. The aneurysm repair part of the surgery was successful.
However, during the surgery there were two complications. The first complication
involved injury to the patient’s spleen. This injury required the
removal of the patient’s spleen. This complication,
although a known risk of this type of surgery, was not disclosed to the patient. Additionally, at some point during
surgery, the patient’s phrenic nerve was either severed or was otherwise
damaged. When she awoke from the surgery, the patient was breathless became
oxygen dependent. The phrenic nerve is the nerve that goes from the diaphragm
to the lung. Once again, this injury was not reported to the patient.
Approximately four months after the surgery the patient received her medical
records and discovered the issue of removal of her spleen. As she had
not gotten better with her shortness of breath and her dependence on supplemental
oxygen, she went for a second opinion consult with a pulmonary doctor.
The pulmonary doctor described the injury to her phrenic nerve and explained
that a portion of one of her lungs was now paralyzed. This is an irreversible
complication of the surgery. Although both of these complications seem
significant, they are both anticipated complications or “known risks”
of surgery. Therefore, it is likely they would not be viewed by the court
system or by a jury as being the result of negligence or medical malpractice.
Although it sounds unacceptable that these complications were not disclosed
to the patient, the failure to disclose did not
cause the patient’s problem. Once again, causation is a difficult concept
to explain. The cause of the spleen removal and the lung paralysis was
not the failure to inform the patient. The injuries were a result of known
risks or anticipated complications from the surgery. If you have questions
about injuries that were suffered during surgery in Kentucky, you are
welcome to contact the Law Offices of Brett H. Oppenheimer, PLLC.