Plaintiff’s decedent was a 47-year-old male suffering from super morbid obesity and an umbilical hernia requiring surgical repair. The patient underwent a planned laparoscopic hernia repair by Defendant surgeon which proceeded without incident in a Columbus, Ohio hospital.
The patient then presented for a 14-day postoperative office visit with the surgeon. He had developed a seroma which was drained by the surgeon and clinically determined to not be infected. The specimen was discarded. The patient complained of some fevers and chills at home, but had a temperature of 99 degrees. The patient was instructed to follow up in two more weeks.
The following day the patient presented to his primary care physician with worsening of symptoms including shortness of breath and cough/nausea. The primary care physician did a complete exam. The surgical site and abdomen appeared benign. The patient was thought to have developing postoperative pneumonia and was prescribed antibiotics.
Several hours later, the patient presented to a small town hospital in respiratory distress. Abdominal exam continued to be benign. The patient was held for five hours before being transferred back to the Columbus hospital where the original surgery took place. Upon presentation at the Columbus hospital, the patient had abdominal distention, redness of the abdomen and an angry red and oozing surgical wound. The patient was taken immediately to exploratory laparotomy by the Defendant surgeon who diagnosed the patient with necrotizing fasciitis. The patient underwent careful debridement of all necrotic tissue and was placed in the ICU under the care of the ICU team and surgery.
Despite surgical intervention and multi-specialty physician management, the patient deteriorated, suffered cardiac arrest and ultimately expired and whether the actions or omissions of the surgeon caused the patient’s death.
The patient was 47 years old at the time of death and left a wife and two 3-year-old twin daughters.
The case was tried on the issue of whether or not the postoperative visit was properly managed by the surgeon within the standard of care.
Plaintiff’s expert surgical witness from Grand Junction, Colorado testified that, due to the patient’s super morbid obesity, the patient was at risk for severe deterioration and complications as the result of surgery and should have been more thoroughly evaluated including laboratory tests to check for infection.
The defense presented a general surgical witness from Central Ohio, a bariatric surgical witness from the University of Hawaii, an infectious disease expert witness from University Hospitals of Cleveland and expert witnesses in cardiology and forensic pathology to address life expectancy which was determined to be extremely limited due to the patient’s super morbid obesity.
After an 8-day trial, the jury returned a unanimous verdict in favor of the defendant general surgeon.