$1 million settlement in Pacific County for failure to diagnose aneurysm

An aneurysm is a weakening of a blood vessel. One of the dangers of an aneurysm in the brain is that the vessel wall may rupture and cause a stroke. Brain aneurysms will sometimes “leak” as a precursor to rupture. The classic symptom of such a warning leak—called a subarachnoid hemorrhage—is severe headache of sudden onset, commonly with vomiting. According to the medical literature, when a patient presents with such symptoms, the physician must maintain “a high index of suspicion … as diagnosis of the “warning leak” before a catastrophic rupture may be life saving”. The first test that should be performed to diagnose a subarachnoid hemorrhage is a CT of the head. A CT scan is not foolproof, however, and a diagnostic lumbar puncture should be performed if the CT scan is negative.

Our client went to the emergency room twice, eight days apart, with the classic symptoms of subarachnoid hemorrhage—a severe, debilitating headache of sudden onset with vomiting. Although a CT was performed at the first visit, a lumbar puncture was never performed and her doctors could not and did not rule out a hemorrhage. Instead, she was sent home with pain medication.

Four days later the aneurysm ruptured. Our client survived the resulting stroke, but suffered permanent neurologic injuries. We alleged that the ER doctors were negligent in failing to strongly advise our client to undergo an immediate lumbar puncture. It is believed to be the largest medical negligence recovery in the history of Pacific County.