Case Settled in Delayed Diagnosis of Blood Clots that led to Above-the-Knee Amputation 

Written By Thomas Hall

Why this Case Matters

Atlee Hall recently concluded a case against medical providers who delayed the diagnosis of blood clots in the arteries in the lower leg of a 50-year-old woman. That delay robbed the patient of the opportunity for successful treatment which would have prevented the need for her above-the-knee amputation.

Our client visited the defendants complaining of a radiating pain in her leg. She pointed out to the doctors that the pain was relieved when she would stand. These are symptoms that are commonly related to having blood clots. If the diagnosis of the blood clots was found earlier, the client had an excellent chance of avoiding amputation.

How We Built A Winning Case

In this case, the plaintiff had to overcome the fact that in the defendant healthcare providers’ medical records, it was documented that the defendant had found normal pulses in the patient’s lower extremity on the four occasions she had been evaluated, prior to finally being diagnosed. This finding would contradict the diagnosis of blood clots.

However, during discovery, the plaintiff established that the defendants used only their fingers to check for the presence of pulses in the patient’s foot, ankle, and behind her knee, even though a Doppler device was available. A handheld Doppler device is used to more accurately check whether pulses are present or not.

Even though the device was available, no defendant took the few minutes needed to use the Doppler to confirm the presence of pulses. The plaintiff argued that when a patient presents with the clinical signs and symptoms suggestive of arterial occlusion (a blockage in the artery), the use of a handheld Doppler is the standard of care.

The plaintiff put forward expert testimony that 20% of the time physicians use only their fingers to check for the presence of pulses in the lower extremity, physicians mistakenly “find” pulses that in fact are not there.

The Result

As our client adjusts to life and has had to learn everyday tasks such as driving and climbing stairs, the Atlee Hall team is pleased to have been able to bring closure as well as highlighting a flaw in the defendants’ method of checking pulses in patients who are suspected of having arterial blood clots – hopefully creating a safer process in the future.