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Negligent Heart Surgery Artery-To-Vein Graft Lawsuit

Kelley v. Johns Hopkins Hospital

Anatomical Heart ModelThis medical malpractice claim was filed in Baltimore City against Johns Hopkins after a man suffered diminished blood flow and related complications after a negligent open heart surgery. It was filed in Health Claims Arbitration on March 12, 2018, and it is the 122nd medical malpractice case filed in Maryland this year.

Summary of Plaintiff's Allegations

A man with a long history of heart problems underwent a single-vessel coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) to repair his left ventricle. After a prior heart attack, muscle in the left lower chamber of the man's heart weakened and bulged, decreasing his overall heart function. His physician attempted to improve his blood flow by performing a type of open-heart surgery.

CABG surgery involves surgically grafting a vessel from the aorta to a coronary artery to bypass the blood flow around one or more narrowed vessels. So the plan for this patient was to take a healthy artery from another part of the body and sew it to the damaged artery, giving the blood a more effective avenue to pump through the heart. In order to bypass the damaged area of the ventricle while still maintaining proper heart function, the doctor was supposed to attach the man's left internal mammary artery (LIMA) to his left anterior descending artery (LAD). Instead, he mistakenly attached the LIMA to the great cardiac vein.

After surgery, the man began experiencing extreme fatigue, shortness of breath, and unusually labored breathing. The man attended numerous cardiac follow-up visits over the next several months, but his physician was never able to determine the source of the postoperative symptoms.

Eventually, the man's new cardiologist ordered a cardioverter defibrillator check and cardiac catheterization to further investigate his continued symptoms. Nearly four years after the negligent CABG surgery, these tests finally revealed that the man's LIMA was connected to a vein rather than the appropriate artery. Shortly thereafter, the new cardiologist performed a successful repair surgery.

Additional Comments
  • Arteries carry oxygen-rich blood out of the heart and through the body, whereas veins carry oxygen-depleted blood from the body back to the heart. Because the defendant surgeon negligently connected an artery to a vein, he made it impossible for the claimant's heart to pump blood and oxygen effectively. Imagine, a bridge that connects a southbound lane to a northbound lane wouldn't facilitate efficient travel, it would just cause a series of head-on collisions and standstill traffic.
  • The plaintiffs claim that the man will continue to suffer from physical injuries, even after the successful repair surgery. The statement of claim never describes those permanent injuries in any detail, so it is difficult to understand how this incident has impacted his life beyond the four years when the surgical mistake was still undiscovered and untreated.
  • This is surgery for patients that have significant problems. Approximately 3-4% of CABG patients die from complications following CABG surgery. During and shortly after CABG surgery, 5-10% of patients experience a heart attack often associated with bypass graft closure or injury to the bypassed artery.
  • It is hard to imagine that this man had this condition for four years and no one did anything or suspected a surgical error.
  • Baltimore City, presumably
  • Johns Hopkins Health System Corporation d/b/a The Johns Hopkins Hospital
  • A cardiac surgeon at Hopkins
Hospitals Where Patient was Treated
  • Johns Hopkins Hospital
  • Failing to properly perform a single-vessel coronary artery bypass graft.
  • Failing to adequately monitor the claimant's heart conditions.
  • Failing to fully and accurately document the surgical procedure.
  • Failing to recognize and correct the surgical error in a timely manner.
Specific Counts Pled
  • Medical Malpractice
  • Negligence
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