An aortic dissection is a painful and life-threatening condition requiring immediate action and knowledge before it causes significant complications such as organ damage or even death.
Unfortunately, many doctors fail to take the time to make the proper diagnosis that could help them address the problem quickly. Further, the doctor may fail to run the appropriate diagnostic tests to make an accurate diagnosis, and medical staff may not provide adequate follow-up care to ensure that the patient heals well after surgery. If you believe a medical practitioner failed to provide you proper medical care for your aortic dissection, you may file a claim for compensation.
Contact a Chicago aortic dissection lawyer for a case evaluation if you or a loved one suffered complications from an aortic dissection.
What Is Aortic Dissection?
Mayo Clinic explains that aortic dissection is when a tear occurs in the inner layer of the aorta, which is the body’s main artery. Blood rushes through the tear and causes the inner and middle layers of the aorta to split. The condition is generally fatal if the blood goes through the outer aortic wall.
Aortic dissection presents symptoms similar to other heart problems, such as:
- Sudden, intense chest pain that spreads from the neck area and down the back.
- Sudden, severe stomach pain.
- Loss of consciousness.
- Shortness of breath.
- Stroke-like symptoms, such as blurred vision, difficulty speaking, or paralysis on one side of the body.
- A weak pulse on one arm or thigh when compared with the other.
- Leg pain and/or difficulty walking.
What Type of Complications Can Arise from Aortic Dissection?
One of the biggest complications from an aortic dissection involves a healthcare provider failing to diagnose and treat the condition before it becomes an emergency.
Michigan Medicine explains that aortic dissections are rare, only affecting around 30 out of every one million people. However, some tell-tale clues can help doctors diagnose the condition. Genetics is a key factor in determining who may suffer an aortic dissection, so taking a thorough patient medical history is crucial.
There are two types of aortic dissections.
- Type A produces symptoms that generally include a sudden ripping or tearing feeling in the chest and often occur in adults under 50.
- Type B typically causes pain in the stomach and mid to lower back.
Patients presenting with these symptoms should always be seen promptly, and tests should be performed as soon as possible to prevent a potentially lethal aortic dissection.
Aside from missed or delayed diagnoses, several other complications can arise from the condition due to a doctor’s error.
These complications can include:
- Surgical errors, such as administering too much or too little anesthesia to the patient for the procedure or causing damage to neighboring organs and bodily structures.
- Transischemic attacks (TIA), stroke, and spinal cord injury.
- Organ damage resulting from the condition not being repaired soon enough.
- Failure of medical staff to notice the signs of complications, such as infection or the loss of adequate circulation in the extremities.
How Medical Malpractice Can Lead to Aortic Dissection Complications
Medical malpractice is a healthcare provider’s failure to provide a standard of care, which refers to the actions similarly positioned medical professionals would have taken to prevent a patient from incurring harm. While many errors do not result in patient harm, and many bad outcomes aren’t actually the result of errors but rather are an inherent risk of surgery, medical malpractice involves both an error and a patient who has suffered harm.
Many different types of doctors can take action to help a patient suffering from an aortic dissection, and a variety of healthcare provider types can face a medical malpractice claim when aortic dissection complications occur.
As noted in research about aortic dissection complications and medical malpractice claims, the types of doctors at the center of these claims include:
- Emergency medical staff, in 29 percent of the cases studied.
- Cardiologists, occurring in 20 percent of cases.
- Internal medicine doctors, named in 14 percent of cases.
- Radiologists, in 11 percent of cases.
- Cardiothoracic or vascular surgeons, each named in 10 percent of cases.
These claims most commonly include the allegation of the provider failing to treat the condition, which was true in 61 percent of the cases researchers evaluated. Another 21 percent of the claims involved delayed diagnosis and treatment. Ten percent of cases were post-operative complications after an open repair. Another 10 percent involved negligent post-operative care.
The Significant Impacts of Aortic Dissection Complications
Aortic dissection complications can dramatically alter the course of the sufferer’s life. Delayed or missed diagnoses account for many deaths from this condition, and those who survive are often left with permanent damage to their internal organs resulting from the sudden blood loss.
Patients generally need at least one month to recover after the surgery and remain in the ICU until their vitals stabilize. Failing to ensure that the patient is stable before moving them to a less intensive treatment plan is crucial, as is ensuring that the patient’s pain is properly managed as they recover.
After an aortic dissection repair, Johns Hopkins University explains, the sufferer will likely have to limit physical activities that can place pressure on the aortic wall and increase the risk of a second dissection. The sufferer’s healthcare provider should provide them with home care instructions and a list of exercises that can be safely performed. The doctor should perform follow-up visits at least every six months to ensure that the patient is not suffering from other complications from the repair, such as blood leaking from the graft.
Because the condition is so severe—even without complications—having a less-than-desirable outcome to the aortic dissection repair can be deadly. It can result in numerous effects, including the inability to work while recovering, permanent loss of earning capacity for those whose complications resulted in disabilities, and the loss of the ability to participate in enjoyable activities that the sufferer can no longer perform.
Medical Malpractice: One of the Most Complex Types of Claims
Medical malpractice occurs when an error or deviation from the standard of care occurs and injures the patient. Nearly all healthcare providers and facilities have medical malpractice insurance.
As explained by the Insurance Information Institute (III), medical malpractice insurance is a specialized form of professional liability insurance that covers physicians and other medical providers when their errors result in a patient’s injury or death.
Medical malpractice insurance covers expenses to the physician and facility, including:
- The costs of legal counsel and court fees.
- The costs of arbitration.
- Settlement costs.
- The costs of compensatory and punitive damages. Compensatory damages refer to the claimant’s compensation for the expenses and effects of their injury. In contrast, punitive damages are ordered as a financial punishment for the extreme recklessness of the defendant.
An attorney can provide numerous services to help you with your claim, including gathering the documentation needed to prove your claim, negotiating with the at-fault provider’s insurer, or even representing your case in court.