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Cardiac Ablation Wrongful Death Case

A high six-figure recovery for a cardiac malpractice case that caused the death of a man from Pittsburgh's North Hills. He died from bleeding following a cardiac ablation. The bleeding occurred around the heart and is often referred to as "cardiac tamponade." Had the doctors taken a picture of the heart with an echocardiogram, the bleeding could have been discovered before the patient died.

What Is A cardiac Ablation?

Cardiac ablation is a procedure often used to treat patients who have some abnormality in the electrical system of their heart that causes irregular heart rhythms and may also cause people to pass out. During the ablation, the doctor uses an instrument to burn or freeze certain nodes or electrical pathways in the heart to try to correct the abnormality. There is a risk of bleeding that can occur after the ablation, and that is exactly what happened in this case. It is important that these patients be watched carefully after the procedure. If there is any suspicion at all of bleeding, the best test to do is an echocardiogram. In this case, the doctor said that they did not think there were any signs or symptoms suggesting that the patient was having bleeding around the heart after the ablation, but the experts that we had retained said otherwise. Unfortunately, this patient was sent home without an echocardiogram being done.

He was at home for a few days and then died suddenly while resting in a chair. When patients are sent home from the hospital and they later die, the doctor or hospital often argues that the family should have brought the patient back to the emergency room if he or she was not feeling well, i.e., they argue that the family was contributively negligent. However, we always point out that the family trusted the doctor when their loved one was discharged and did not think that there was anything bad that was going to happen.

One of the other challenges in this case was that this patient, although he was only approximately 60 years of age, had retired from his work because of other health issues. The retirement eliminated any claim we would have had for lost earnings or diminished earning capacity, but we were still able to claim that the household lost the value of his Social Security income. Also, as in any wrongful death case where there is a surviving spouse, we also claimed that there was a "loss of consortium," i.e., the loss of the husband-wife relationship that had been built up over a marriage of many years.

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