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Failure to Diagnose C. Diff. Infection

Lawsuit Against Sinai Hospital | February 15, 2021

On February 15, 2021, WVFO attorneys Keith Forman and Jermaine Haughton filed a medical malpractice claim on behalf of a patient who suffered preventable injuries as a result of the failure to diagnose a post-surgical infection.

The complaint alleges that the patient underwent elective ileostomy reversal at Sinai Hospital. There were no complications during surgery. The patient ultimately experienced nausea, for which he was administered multiple doses of medication. The Sinai providers knew or should have known that continued nausea in this setting was a symptom of clostridium difficile infection. Clostridium difficile (also known as C. diff) is a type of bacteria that causes diarrhea and colitis (inflammation of the colon). It is estimated to cause almost half a million illnesses in the United States each year. When there is strong suspicion for C. diff, the standard of care requires that the physician promptly initiate oral antibiotics for a presumed infection, after obtaining the necessary cultures for testing. If left untreated, C. diff infection can progress rapidly leading to severe or fulminant disease. The patient also developed diarrhea and was eventually administered Oxycodone for severe abdominal pain. These were all symptoms of worsening C. diff infection. The patient was administered morphine, Simethicone, and Oxycodone for severe abdominal pain. Nonetheless, he continued to experience nausea, vomiting, and severe abdominal pain. An abdominal x-ray was eventually performed, which found persistent small bowel dilation with air fluid levels. Notably, small bowel dilation is a radiographic finding consistent with worsening C. diff. Despite obvious signs and symptoms of C. diff, and mounting evidence of disease progression, the Sinai providers continued to follow their negligent plan of care, with no orders for antibiotics or proper consultations. The patient was eventually taken to the operating room for an “exploratory laparotomy.” When the patient’s stool sample subsequently confirmed the diagnosis of C. diff, the attending doctor failed to administer oral antibiotics effective against C. diff., and failed to consult infectious disease providers. In the ensuing hours, the patient’s disease progressed to severe and fulminant C. diff causing tachycardia, tachypnea, hypotension, septic shock, and acute on chronic kidney failure. He required a total colectomy, end ileostomy, small bowel resection. His critical care course spanned several days and additional surgical procedures. The patient was not able to return to work due to the severity of his condition upon discharge.

Among other injuries, the patient suffered severe and fulminant C. diff enterocolitis, sepsis, septic shock, total colectomy, end ileostomy or jejunostomy, short gut syndrome, metabolic acidosis, and other conditions requiring extensive and ongoing medical care and interventions. The lawsuit alleges he is permanently deconditioned by the negligence inflicted upon him at Sinai Hospital.

The action is pending in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, Maryland.

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