Spinal Anesthetic Hypoxic Brain Damage Lawsuit

Green v. Mercy Medical Center

Surgery RoomThis medical malpractice claim was filed in Baltimore City after a man suffered hypoxic brain damage due to a spinal anesthesia overdose. It was filed in Health Claims Arbitration on March 16, 2018, and it is the 131st medical malpractice case filed in Maryland this year.

Summary of Plaintiff's Allegations

A man presented to Mercy Medical Center for a revision hip replacement. Before the hip surgery, the man received an overdose of spinal anesthesia, inhibiting his sensory and motor function. Spinal anesthesia involves the introduction of a small amount of a local anesthetic into the spinal canal through a needle. Obviously, doctors and nurses are required to monitor the patient constantly while he is undergoing surgery with spinal anesthesia.

Within the first thirty minutes after the spinal anesthesia was administered, his heart rate dropped from 91 to 76 and his oxygen saturation level dropped from 99% to 52%. In spite of these clear distress signals, the anesthesiology team failed to investigate the cause of the man's poor hemodynamics and respiratory function.

Less than forty minutes after the spinal anesthesia overdose, the man had no documented blood pressure or heart rate and a code was called. After two intubation attempts, delayed chest compressions, and a dose of Epinephrine, the man was resuscitated and transported to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

Plaintiff contends that with proper monitoring and evaluation, the anesthesia team would have immediately realized that the spinal anesthesia was climbing to a dangerous level, intubated the man, and provided him with ventilator support. Instead, the ongoing spinal anesthesia overdose slowed down the man's regular breathing and heart rate, depriving his brain tissue of oxygen for an extended period of time.

After arriving in the ICU, the man was evaluated and found to have cognitive impairment due to the brain injury he suffered. Since his discharge from the hospital, the man has experienced seizures, tremors that begin in the right arm and involve the entire body, dizzy spells, and significant memory loss.

Additional Comments
  • The claimant's brain damage resulted from a prolonged period of hypoxia which means the tissues in his brain and body were not supplied with an adequate amount of oxygen. A spinal anesthesia overdose can cause hypoxia by paralyzing the intercostal muscles between the ribs, making it more difficult for the patient to breathe and saturate the blood with oxygen.
  • There is nothing surprising about respiratory complications from spinal anesthesia. If the amount of spinal anesthesia effects the diaphragm, breathing can often get difficult. But it can be managed. This is why doctors have to be on high alert and monitor the patient carefully.
Jurisdiction
  • Baltimore City
Defendants
  • An anesthesiologist
  • A registered nurse
  • Mercy Medical Center, Inc.
Hospitals Where Patient was Treated
  • Mercy Medical Center
Negligence
  • Failing to administer an appropriate spinal anesthetic.
  • Failing to monitor the level of the spine as the block was being prepared and failing to determine the ultimate level of the block.
  • Failing to appropriately assess the claimant's vital signs.
  • Failing to ensure that the claimant was breathing properly and adequately oxygenated.
  • Failing to start chest compressions immediately after calling a code.
Specific Counts Pled
  • As a direct result of the defendants' negligence, the claimant suffered a permanent brain injury and will require custodial assistance for the remainder of his lifetime.
  • Loss of Consortium.
Plaintiff's Experts and Areas of Specialty
  • Charise Petrovich, M.D., anesthesiologist
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