O'Brien and Ryan, LLP - Attorneys at Law

Defense Verdict for Neurologist in Philadelphia County

Bart C. Tuttle obtained a defense verdict on behalf of a neurologist in a medical malpractice action filed in Philadelphia County. This case involved allegations of failure to prevent and diagnose bilateral foot drop, ankle contractures and heterotopic ossification in a critically ill patient who was being treated for Leukemia. The Plaintiff was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia in July 1997 at the age of 37. He received three rounds of chemotherapy and underwent a bone marrow aspiration and biopsy for treatment of his leukemia. Following the third round of chemotherapy, the Plaintiff experienced significant complications from the chemotherapy and was admitted to the hospital in January 1998 due to what is commonly referred to as a "chemo crash". Plaintiff was critically ill, was placed on a ventilator, and remained in the ICU for nearly two months.

After emerging from a coma-like state in late March 1998, signs of a foot drop were noted. On March 31, 1998 he was transferred to a rehabilitation facility due to severe deconditioning as a result of his critical illness. During his admission at the rehabilitation facility, Plaintiff was diagnosed with bilateral foot drop, and subsequently diagnosed with ankle contractures and heterotopic ossification of the hip. Heterotopic ossification is a condition in which bone formations begin to grow, and can occur in patients who are in a coma-like state for prolonged periods of time.

Plaintiff claimed that due to improper positioning, turning and range of motion during his hospitalization, he developed these conditions as a result of compression on the nerves. The Plaintiff currently uses a wheel chair. The defense presented evidence that the bilateral foot drop was a result of critical illness polyneuropathy (CIP) and could not have been prevented. CIP is a condition that can occur in patients who are on a ventilator for prolonged periods of time and suffer from sepsis. The toxins from the sepsis cause nerve damage. The defense also presented evidence that the ankle contractures did not occur during the hospital admission, but rather during the rehabilitation period. Further, the defense argued that the heterotopic ossification was due to the patient's critical illness and could not have been prevented, and therefore, was not the result of any substandard care.

Following a two and a half week trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the defense.

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