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Can You Seek Financial Compensation for a Postoperative Pulmonary Embolism or Deep Vein Thrombosis?

Written by Berkowitz

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Surgical procedures can carry a number of risks. These include the risk of suffering from a hospital-acquired condition (HAC). Two of the most common HACs associated with surgical procedures are postoperative pulmonary embolism and deep vein thrombosis.

In many cases, postoperative pulmonary embolisms and deep vein thrombosis will support claims for medical malpractice. As surgery complications, these conditions are generally preventable, and failure to prevent them may constitute medical negligence. For patients and families who are coping with the effects of these conditions, consulting with an experienced medical malpractice attorney makes sense, and those who have claims should take all necessary steps to assert their legal rights effectively.

Causes and Effects of Postoperative Pulmonary Embolism

Pulmonary embolism is a serious and potentially fatal medical condition that occurs due to a blood clot in the lungs. While pulmonary embolisms can result from natural causes, they can be caused by mistakes during surgery. As explained in the Pulmonology Advisor:

“The respiratory system is particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of general anesthesia and surgery, and postoperative pulmonary complications are commonly encountered. Overall, pulmonary complications account for approximately 25 percent of deaths in the postoperative period. Pulmonary complications also contribute to increased intensive care and hospital lengths of stay, prolonged recovery times, and increased cost of care.”

Depending on the severity of a pulmonary embolism and the timing of a patient’s diagnosis, potential effects can range from pain and swelling to premature death. While most patients are able to make a full recovery, an untimely or improper diagnosis can potentially be a fatal mistake. Unfortunately, misdiagnoses of pulmonary embolisms are not uncommon, as embolisms can have similar symptoms to a variety of other postoperative conditions, including:

  • Atelectasis
  • Aspiration pneumonitis
  • Phrenic nerve injury
  • Pleural effusion
  • Pneumonia
  • Transfusion-related acute lung injury (TRALI)
  • Transfusion-associated circulatory overload (TACO)

As the potential outcomes of a postoperative pulmonary embolism can vary widely, the costs associated with these HACs can vary widely as well. Broadly speaking, medical expenses, medical supply and device costs, prescription costs, and loss of earnings are all common. In addition, patients diagnosed with postoperative pulmonary embolisms may also experience chronic pain, reduced quality of life, and other non-economic effects—and these are also considered forms of loss for which financial compensation is available.

Causes and Effects of Postoperative Deep Vein Thrombosis

Deep vein thrombosis is characterized by a blood clot in a vein deep in the body. Similar to pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis is a condition that can result from both natural causes and errors during surgery. If a deep vein thrombosis breaks loose and makes its way to the lungs, it can result in a pulmonary embolism requiring emergency medical care.

Several risk factors can increase a surgical patient’s chances of developing deep vein thrombosis. Therefore, before performing surgery, health care providers must evaluate patients for these risk factors, and they must take any risk factors presented into account. Failure to do so may constitute medical malpractice. As identified by Johns Hopkins Medicine, risk factors for deep vein thrombosis include:

  • Age over 60
  • Cancer
  • Obesity or being overweight
  • Having a central venous catheter
  • Heart problems
  • History of blood clotting disorders
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Lupus
  • Paralysis
  • Pregnancy
  • Prolonged periods of immobility (including immobility in the hospital awaiting surgery)
  • Use of birth control or hormone replacement therapy
  • Varicose veins

In addition to failing to consider pertinent risk factors, failure to timely diagnose or properly treat deep vein thrombosis in the postoperative setting may also constitute medical malpractice. While deep vein thrombosis is treatable if diagnosed in time, the costs of treatment and recovery can still be significant. As noted above, failure to timely diagnose a postoperative surgical patient’s deep vein thrombosis can potentially lead to a life-threatening pulmonary embolism.

Do You Have a Claim for Medical Malpractice?

It is necessary to prove that your (or your loved one’s) condition resulted from medical malpractice to seek financial compensation for a postoperative pulmonary embolism or deep vein thrombosis. A medical mistake rises to the level of malpractice if the mistake could have been avoided with the exercise of adequate care in light of the standards recognized within the health care provider’s medical community.

Postoperative pulmonary embolisms and deep vein thrombosis will not be indicative of medical malpractice in all cases. For example, suppose a patient fails to provide information about a risk factor despite being asked. In that case, this could be a scenario in which the patient’s health care provider is not liable. However, medical malpractice claims will be justified in many cases. Some examples of possible grounds for pursuing a medical malpractice claim following a postoperative pulmonary embolism or deep vein thrombosis include:

  • Failure to inquire about or address a patient’s risk factors
  • Failure to diagnose injuries to deep veins during surgery (i.e., injuries from broken bones)
  • Injuries to deep veins resulting from surgical mistakes
  • Failure to diagnose deep vein thrombosis during or after surgery
  • Failure to diagnose a pulmonary embolism during or after surgery
  • Misdiagnosis of a pulmonary embolism or deep vein thrombosis
  • Failure to monitor a postoperative patient’s symptoms
  • Failure to provide timely and appropriate treatment for deep vein thrombosis or a pulmonary embolism

While these are among the most common grounds for pursuing postoperative medical malpractice claims, these are not the only possible grounds for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit related to a pulmonary embolism or deep vein thrombosis. There are other possibilities as well. Therefore, if you or a loved one has been diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism or deep vein thrombosis after surgery, you should speak with an attorney about your legal rights.

Speak with a Connecticut Medical Malpractice Attorney Today

Do you have questions about your legal rights following a postoperative pulmonary embolism or deep vein thrombosis diagnosis? If so, one of our Connecticut medical malpractice attorneys will be happy to discuss your legal rights in confidence. To schedule a free and confidential consultation at your convenience, contact us online today.