O'Brien and Ryan, LLP - Attorneys at Law

Decision in Favor of Anesthesiologist at Arbitration

Bart C. Tuttle received a decision in favor of an anesthesiologist at arbitration.  Plaintiff, a 57 year old woman, had a history of cardiovascular disease and was diagnosed with progressive multivessel disease in February 2002. On February 28, 2002, Plaintiff underwent a quadruple coronary artery bypass grafting procedure, which involved a sternotomy and a saphenous vein was harvested from the patient's right leg for the grafting procedure. After the procedure was completed, the Plaintiff was prepared to be transferred from the operating room table to the hospital bed using a roller board. During the transfer, the bed separated from the operating room table, and the Plaintiff began to slide between the bed and the table. The anesthesia team protected the Plaintiff's head and neck, including the endotracheal tube. All medical personnel participating in the transfer lowered Plaintiff to the ground between the bed and the table. She landed on her left side. Plaintiff was examined for injuries, then lifted onto the hospital bed. A trauma team was called as a precautionary measure to perform a comprehensive evaluation. Following a full work up including multiple diagnostic tests, it was determined Plaintiff did not suffer any injury as a result of the incident. Plaintiff remained in the hospital during the normal post-operative period, and was discharged for rehabilitation.

Plaintiff claimed that she suffers from ongoing pain in her sternum, and suffered an injury to her right ankle as a result of the incident. Plaintiff sued the anesthesiologist, the cardiothoracic surgeon, several nurses, and the hospital. She did not proceed against the cardiothoracic surgeon during the arbitration.

Mr. Tuttle argued that the transfer from the OR table to the bed was performed in the standard fashion. Unfortunately, the bed separated from the OR table and Plaintiff had to be lowered to the floor. This unforeseen incident was handled appropriately, the patient was well protected, and she was subsequently thoroughly examined and deemed to be free from injury. The defense presented the expert testimony of James Noone, M.D., an anesthesiologist and pain management specialist. Dr. Noone testified that because Plaintiff experienced relief from her sternal pain for three months following a steroid injection, this indicated the pain was due to costochondritis. The costochondritis was not caused by the incident; therefore, her sternal pain was not a result of the incident. Furthermore, sternal pain is a common symptom following a median sternotomy incision even with successful healing. Mr. Tuttle further argued that Plaintiff's right ankle complaints could not be related to the incident because she was lowered onto her left side, therefore, the mechanism of the incident could not have caused injury to her right ankle. Further, the saphenous vein harvested for the grafting procedure was taken from the right leg.

The arbitration panel agreed that Plaintiff did not suffer any injury as a result of the incident and found in favor of the defense.

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