Medical Malpractice Case Report: $300,000 settlement for failure to diagnose abdominal compartment syndrome

June 2009

Firm partner Peter A. Schmit achieved a medical malpractice settlement of $300,000 in a medical malpractice case for the family of a 63-year-old who died after a failure to timely diagnose abdominal compartment syndrome (acute medical problem following  surgery in which increased pressure within a confined space in the body impairs blood supply) and promptly return him to surgery. Read the following Minnesota Association for Justice (MAJ) Minnesota Case Report, Vol.28, No.3, June, 2009

Selected Results*

H.H. was a 63-year-old retired man who in 2005 was diagnosed with two aortic aneurysms. On January 5, 2006 Dr. S. repaired the aneurysms and by all accounts the surgery went well. Post-operatively, H.H.'s blood pressure fell dramatically and fluid resuscitation ensued. Over the course of the next several hours H.H. demonstrated concerning signs including bloody stool, a precipitous drop in heart rate and abdominal distension. Dr. S. took H.H. back to surgery and upon opening H.H., Dr. S. observed two liters of blood in his abdomen and oozing from the spleen. He removed the spleen and repaired the aneurysm. Post-operatively, H.H. again began to struggle with respiratory issues, hypotension, tachycardia and acidosis. His condition worsened over the ensuing hours and ultimately, a different surgeon diagnosed "clear abdominal compartment syndrome".

Dr. G. for the third time returned H.H. to the operating room. Dr. G. found three liters of blood in H.H.'s abdomen, ischemia all the way down to the descending colon and perforation in the mid-transverse colon. Despite surviving another surgery, H.H. continued to deteriorate and ultimately died of multi-system organ failure. 

Plaintiffs' experts contended that given H.H.'s postoperative symptoms following the second surgery, abdominal compartment syndrome should have been diagnosed sooner and H.H. should have been returned for repair in a more timely manner. Furthermore, that had earlier repair taken place, H.H. would have survived.

Defendant Health System disclosed experts who contended that given the severity of H.H.'s condition (two large abdominal aortic aneurysms and H.H.'s precipitous health state) H.H. likely would not have survived a third surgery regardless of its timing.Plaintiffs countered by finding literature that found that a majority of patients survive aneurysm repair, even when aneurysms had ruptured. H.H. was survived by his high school bride and adult children.   

Settlement: $300,000

Peter A. Schmit


Chair, National Personal Injury and Medical Malpractice Group

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