Woman claims retained laparotomy pad caused ulcerative colitis

March 1, 2012

A 25-year old Illinois woman delivered a baby by cesarean. During the procedure a laparotomy pad was left inside her abdomen. She subsequently experienced abdominal pain, bleeding, and diarrhea, and was readmitted to the hospital 4 months after the cesarean delivery. A CT scan revealed the laparotomy pad. Surgery was performed to remove the pad and an abscess that had formed around it. The patient was hospitalized for a week and also was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. The woman sued those involved with the delivery, claiming that the retained pad caused or contributed to her ulcerative colitis and that she would require colon removal surgery in the future.

LEGAL PERSPECTIVE

In retained foreign object cases, the hospital usually admits that the care was below standard and the issue often becomes the damages related to the hospitalization and reoperation if necessary. In this case, the hospital admitted liability several months prior to trial but denied that the retained sponge caused the ulcerative colitis. It claimed that the damages should be limited to the consequences stemming from surgical removal of the pad, and the defense claimed that there is no known cause of ulcerative colitis and that the patient was likely to have a good result even if she required colon removal in the future.

Birth trauma in large infant blamed for cerebral palsy

HAVING GAINED 70 POUNDS with her pregnancy, a Michigan woman developed gestational diabetes. She went into labor at term, had a 16-hour labor including 2 hours of pushing, and delivered vaginally. The female infant weighed 10 pounds, 12 ounces; she required resuscitation to establish breathing, had poor tone, and developed seizures. She was diagnosed with a fractured clavicle, had 3 intracranial hemorrhages, and spent 3 weeks in neonatal intensive care. Subsequently, she was diagnosed with cerebral palsy secondary to birth trauma. The child, now a teenager, requires 24-hour care and is unable to walk or talk.

In the lawsuit that followed, the patient claimed that the obstetrician and nurses should have anticipated a large fetus and should have performed an ultrasound to determine estimated weight before labor. She argued that this would have resulted in a recommendation for cesarean delivery.

The obstetrician argued that radiographic imaging performed shortly after birth revealed abnormal brain development and that and other genetic testing indicated that the child's problems were due to pontocerebellar hypoplasia. The parents argued the child did not have this condition or she would have died in infancy, and if she did have it, the injuries alleged were unrelated to it.

The jury returned a verdict for the child in the amount of $144 million.

Failure to diagnose genetic disorder prenatally claimed

A NEW JERSEY WOMAN in her second trimester of pregnancy went to a maternal/fetal specialist for an ultrasound, which showed a jaw abnormality in the fetus. The patient delivered a child who suffers from Treacher Collins syndrome, causing her to have a misaligned jaw and trachea. She has required resuscitation several times, is deaf and disfigured, and has undergone a dozen operations.

The patient sued the perinatologist and claimed the abnormality on ultrasound should have led to diagnosis of the syndrome, a genetic defect that can lead to misalignment of parts of the body. She alleged that she would have chosen to terminate the pregnancy if she had been advised of the diagnosis, thus avoiding the lifetime care needed for the child.

A $2.25 million settlement was reached.