$1.5 M Recovered for Delay in the Diagnosis and Treatment of Pituitary Apoplexy

Failure to Diagnose

$1.5 M recovered for a 71-year old male for a loss of vision based upon the delay in the diagnosis and treatment of pituitary apoplexy in Albany County, New York.  Pituitary apoplexy is the sudden loss of vision caused by the death or bleeding from a pituitary tumor.

The patient was brought to the emergency department of the hospital with the sudden onset of a severe headache, double vision and altered mental status. The patient’s past medical history was significant for a benign pituitary tumor (an abnormal growth at the base of the brain).

During the hospital admission, an MRI of the brain revealed that the pituitary tumor was compressing the optic nerve.  The optic nerve is located at the back of the eye and transfers visual information from the retina to the occipital lobe in the brain.  When a pituitary tumor compresses the optic nerve, it can kill the cells in the optic nerve and can lead to permanent vision loss.

30-hours after the brain MRI, emergency surgery was performed to remove the pituitary tumor from the optic nerve. Following surgery, the patient was diagnosed with permanent loss of vision. 

The patient contended that the permanent vision loss could have been prevented with emergency surgical decompression of the pituitary tumor as soon as the attending neurosurgeon received the brain MRI results rather than waiting for over 24-hours before surgery commenced.