Medical Malpractice: $3,675,640.00
Plaintiff, a 64 year old retiree, had a mitral valve replacement surgery performed by defendant doctor, a cardiothoracic surgeon. During the surgery and after the mitral valve had been replaced, the doctor sewed four wires known as temporary pacing wires, extending from the heart and through the skin at the bottom of the chest. The purpose of the wires was to enable doctors to pace the heart with an external pacemaker, if necessary, during the hospitalization. At some point during the hospitalization, the doctor removed two of the four pacing wires, while the other remained in place due to the doctor’s inability to remove them. The doctor was worried about pulling too hard on the wires in an effort to remove them because this could result in a tear in the heart. The doctor clipped the remaining two wires shorter than their original state, and thus, they could not be used for pacing. The plaintiff was discharged from the hospital with the two wires still in place, exiting the skin, and was instructed to return to the doctors office in a week to have the wires removed. A week later the plaintiff was brought to the E.R., where doctors diagnosed her as suffering from acute sepsis. Cultures from the pacer wire exit site were positive for staph aureus. Eventually, the blood borne bacterial infection subsequently lodged itself on the prosthetic mitral valve. The infection accumulated in a combination of blood and pus (vegetation), of which a piece broke off and resulted in a stroke to the plaintiff. Plaintiff contended that it was below the standard of care to discharge her from the hospital with the wires in place, and the infection was caused by the wires being left in place. Plaintiff’s expert testified that the wire exit site provided a portal of entry for the bacteria, which then followed the pacing wire path into the mediastinum at which time a blood borne infection developed. Defendant contended that it was permissible to allow the plaintiff to go home with the temporary wires still exiting her chest; the infection did not come from the wires, but rather an intra-operative wound infection that occurs in about 2% of open heart surgeries even absent negligence; and there is a lack of medical literature, case studies, or experience by any testifying experts seeing an infection caused by the temporary external pacing wires.
The results of every case is dependent upon the specific facts of the case and the results will differ if based on different facts.