Negligence in Heart Surgery: Liability & Legal Options

Heart surgery is an incredibly risky and complicated endeavor. Any deviation from medical standards of care can result in medical malpractice, injury to the patient, and a lawsuit.

Medical negligence in heart surgery -- and malpractice lawsuits that arise from this kind of negligence -- are fairly common. This is partly due to the degree of difficulty involved in these procedures, and also due to the sheer volume of procedures performed. Read on to learn more about medical negligence in heart surgery, and key issues that might come up in this kind of medical malpractice lawsuit.

A Poor Result Does Not Always Equate to Malpractice

It almost goes without saying that most heart surgeries are delicate and extremely complicated procedures, and they require a great degree of care and skill. Even under optimum conditions, with the best surgeons available, complications can arise. With complications come problems that can lead to illness, injury or even death. But that does not necessarily mean that a doctor was negligent or has committed malpractice. Sometimes, heart surgery is unsuccessful.

The practice of medicine is not an exact science. Poor results -- even fatal results -- can happen for a number of reasons that might be totally unrelated to malpractice. Patients, or their surviving family members in the case of fatalities, often struggle with that particular reality.

It is natural to assume -- to hope, even -- that there is a concrete reason for your or a loved one’s unsuccessful heart surgery. But before you waste time -- and potentially money -- on a lawsuit that has no merit, you should consult with attorneys and medical professionals to form a preliminary determination as to whether any health care professional actually committed medical negligence in connection with the procedure.

Common Types of Medical Negligence Resulting in Heart Surgery Lawsuits

There are a few types of medical negligence that are often specific to heart surgeries. Angioplasty errors, such as over-inflation of the surgical balloon or the release of plaque into the arteries, can result in permanent disability or death. So, too, can improper ablation. Ablation is a technique that utilizes radio waves to correct arrhythmia. Improper technique can result in burnt tissue and internal organ damage -- including damage to the heart itself.

Even in relatively simple procedures such as stent placement or pacemaker insertion, the potential for malpractice is present. Any time leads are inserted in the heart, there is a danger that their improper removal could result in damage to the heart itself. Some of these particular injuries are thought to be attributable to defective leads, but the fact remains that doctors must comply with the appropriate medical standard of care when inserting and removing leads and any other device.

Heart surgeons are not immune to the more run-of-the-mill types of surgical errors either. Incorrect incisions, leaving foreign objects in the body cavity, or operating on the wrong portion of the heart are all violations of the standard of care that will almost always amount to medical malpractice.

So, too, is the administration of improper anesthesia. Finally, failure to adequately follow up post-surgery is also malpractice. This means that a heart surgeon needs to ensure a patient is on the proper medication and is receiving the appropriate post-op care.

Medical Negligence Resulting in Death in Heart Surgery Cases

If a loved one has undergone heart surgery and passed away either during or after the procedure, the estate of the deceased party may be able to file a lawsuit for wrongful death, or for medical malpractice resulting in death. State law regarding medical malpractice resulting in death varies, so it is important to consult with an attorney as soon as possible, to make sure you make any legal claim in time under the applicable statute of limitations.

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