$2,000,000 Recovered for Delay in Treating Cardiac Tamponade

Delayed Diagnosis, Heart Attack

The estate of a 37-year-old male recovered $2,000,000 for the failure to treat cardiac tamponade in Orange County, New York.

The patient arrived at the emergency department of the hospital complaining of shortness of breath and severe back pain radiating to his left chest wall. An urgent echocardiogram revealed pericardial effusion with evidence of cardiac tamponade.

A Heart Condition that can be Life Threatening: Cardiac Tamponade

Cardiac tamponade takes place when abnormal amounts of fluid accumulate in the pericardial sac compressing the heart and leading to a decrease in cardiac output and shock. Cardiac tamponade requires prompt recognition and treatment to prevent cardiovascular collapse and cardiac arrest. Cardiac tamponade is a medical emergency and without treatment is invariably fatal.

The treatment of cardiac tamponade is the removal of pericardial fluid to help relieve the pressure surrounding the heart. This can be done by performing a needle pericardiocentesis at the patient’s bedside. The key is the timing of the intervention. The longer the delay, the worse the outcome. The condition can rapidly lead to hypotension, shock and death.

Following the diagnosis of cardiac tamponade, the patient was scheduled to undergo an emergent pericardiocentesis. However, there was a delay in performing the pericardiocentesis during the morning and afternoon. 1 hour before his death, the patient had acute shortness of breath and stated that he couldn’t breathe and was dying. In the late afternoon, the patient went into cardiac arrest and the providers were unable to resuscitate him.

A Tragic and Unnecessary Death

A timely pericardiocentesis would have saved the patient’s life. Had this procedure been done, the fluid compressing the patient’s heart would have been removed and the patient would have been able to breathe comfortably. The delay in performing the pericardiocentesis caused the patient’s death.

As a result of this partial settlement, trust accounts will be created for the decedent’s 3 children to pay for the necessities of life, including health insurance, a down payment for their first home purchase and tuition for college.