Orthopedist’s Failure to Diagnose Infection Forces Amputation
A 46-year-old nanny underwent an unnecessary amputation, will wear a prosthetic leg, and endure pain for the rest of her life because her orthopedist failed to diagnose and treat an infection that developed in the bones of her ankle joint after she underwent ankle fusion surgery.
Shortly after the surgery was performed, the woman developed osteomyelitis, an acute inflammation of the bone caused by bacteria. The attending orthopedist failed to diagnose and treat the condition, although nursing records reflected that the woman¹s wounds had become necrotic and noted that inflammation had developed at the site of the pin used to fuse the ankle joint, putting her at risk for bone infection.
The attending orthopedist failed to undertake the measures that the standard of care required. He did not order or obtain infectious disease consultations; he did not order appropriate diagnostic testing; he did not determine appropriate antibiotic therapy; he did not obtain a bone biopsy and culture; nor did he refer the patient to a plastic surgeon for possible treatment of the wound by covering it with a flap. As a result of the attending orthopedist’s negligence, the woman’s condition deteriorated, and she was forced to have her left leg amputated below the knee.
In addition to wearing a prosthetic limb for the rest of her life, she suffers from phantom pain, muscle spasms, and pressure-like pain as a result of the amputation, revisions, and surgical removal of dead tissue at the amputation site. These conditions cause her extreme difficulty performing everyday activities, and the quality of her life has been severely diminished.
The woman sued the attending orthopedist and the sports medicine clinic where he practiced, alleging medical malpractice, and asked the court for just and reasonable compensatory damages and compensation for her past and future medical expenses.
Expert witnesses for the plaintiff supported the allegations of malpractice. An orthopedist was prepared to testify that the attending orthopedist failed to pursue any of the actions that were required by the standard of care. An infectious disease specialist was prepared to testify that, in his opinion, the infection would have been eradicated, had the attending orthopedist diagnosed and treated the woman’s osteomyelitis in a timely fashion, eliminating the need for amputation. A pathologist was prepared to testify that the woman had osteomyelitis at the time she was under the attending orthopedist¹s care and treatment.
The case was settled before trial for an undisclosed amount.