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Wrongful Death And Survival Action For Negligent Airway Management

Lawsuit Against Holy Cross Anesthesiology Associates, P.A. | April 9, 2020

On April 9, 2020, WVFO attorney Jermaine Haughton filed a medical malpractice claim on behalf of the family and estate of a man who died as a result of the negligent airway management.

The complaint alleges that the patient’s medical history was significant for morbid obesity, severe sleep apnea, kidney disease and hypertension. The patient was referred by his podiatrist for surgery on his left foot. The defendants had knowledge of the patient’s past medical history of severe obstructive sleep apnea. The pre-operative evaluation confirmed that an obstructive sleep apnea questionnaire was completed by a nurse, and that several factors rendered he patient “High Risk” for obstructive sleep apnea. Definitive airway management by oral endotracheal tube intubation or laryngeal mask airway is recommended when surgery is performed on patients who are noted to be high risk for upper airway obstruction, and/or patients with difficult airways. A nursing assessment confirmed that the patient was alert, oriented, and calm prior to the procedure. He was having no pain, and his breathing, heart rate, and neurological status were all within normal limits. A pre-anesthesia evaluation by the attending anesthesiologist acknowledged that the patient had a Class 3 airway, which is predictive of difficult intubation. It also noted the patient’s history of obstructive sleep apnea. In the operating room, the patient was not intubated, and was not provided supplemental oxygen in any way. The anesthesiologist administered general anesthesia. Immediately thereafter, the patient experienced difficulty with his heartrate and breathing. During that time, the anesthesia monitor failed to record the presence of any oxygen in the patient’s blood. Eventually, the anesthesiologist performed CPR and Emergency Medical Services arrived on the scene. EMS transported the patient in “critical condition” to another hospital, however, the patient died. An autopsy concluded that the death was due to “cardiac arrest as a result of presumed respiratory arrest, since he stopped breathing prior to cardiac decompensation.” Diseases and other acute conditions of the lungs and heart were ruled out as causes.

The lawsuit alleges, among other things, that the defendants negligently failed to formulate a proper anesthetic plan for the decedent in light of his morbid obesity and obstructive sleep apnea, and that this negligence ultimately caused the patient’s death.

The action is pending in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Maryland.

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