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Death Due to Malfunction of Brain Shunt

High six-figure settlement - A neurologically disabled woman in her 30s died as a result of a delay in diagnosing a blockage in a brain shunt. This young woman had a chronic condition that caused the build-up of fluid in her brain and the purpose of the shunt was to drain that fluid from the brain to her abdomen where it could be gradually absorbed into the body. Unfortunately, the shunt developed a blockage and the fluid could not be drained and, therefore, pressure built up inside her brain and ultimately led to her death. The medical mistake happened when a doctor who looked at a CT scan done on her abdomen and brain failed to detect signs suggesting that the shunt was blocked. Had the CT been correctly interpreted, the surgeon could have been notified and the situation could have been corrected with a new shunt.

Errors involving the mis-reading of radiology films such as x-rays or CT scans often occur because doctors do not pay close enough attention to the reason the test was ordered. In this case, the "indications" listed by the ordering physician included the possibility that there was a malfunction of the shunt. Therefore, the radiologist interpreting the films should have paid particular attention to any signs of shunt blockage.

Although this claim led to the patient's death, the recovery was limited by the fact that the patient was already disabled and, therefore, there was no claim for economic loss. Additionally, she was not married and had no children. Thus, the only damages available under Pennsylvania law were for the parents loss of their relationship with the daughter.

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