Eric G. Johnson, Esq., successfully defended a cardiothoracic surgeon in a medical malpractice case involving claims that the surgeon was negligent in recommending and proceeding with coronary artery bypass graft surgery (CABG) for a 74 year old patient who was obese, diabetic, and on immunosuppressive medication for rheumatoid arthritis. Plaintiff claimed, the patient’s underlying condition and immunosuppressed condition put him at an unacceptable risk for developing a post-operative infection, such that the risks outweighed the benefits of surgery. Plaintiff further argued that the options of medical treatment or angioplasty with stenting were preferable and proper, as they involved either no or significantly lower risk of infection.
The patient underwent triple bypass surgery on May 22, 2006, and subsequently developed a sternal wound dehiscence, a deep sternal wound infection and osteomyelitis of the sternum. As a result of these complications, the patient had to undergo six separate chest surgeries over the next year and a half to repair the sternum, debride and clean out the infected tissue and bone, and reconstruct the chest and chest wound. The patient ultimately died in July 2009 from congestive heart disease and respiratory failure, which plaintiff claimed was caused by the long-term persistent infection.
Plaintiff called an expert in cardiology who testified that the defendant cardiothoracic surgeon was negligent in his recommendation for CABG surgery, which was “absolutely contraindicated” because of the patient’s significant infection risk. The expert testified that medical therapy and angioplasty with stenting would have provided the same benefits and were the proper treatments for the patient’s three vessel disease, with little or no risk of the infection with which the patient was ultimately diagnosed. The expert testified that had either of these treatment options been pursued, the patient’s dehiscence and deep sternal wound infection would not have occurred.
Defendant called an expert in cardiothoracic surgery to refute these claims. The expert testified that the surgery recommended and performed by the defendant doctor was absolutely appropriate, and that the post-operative sternal wound dehiscence and deep sternal wound infection suffered by the patient was not as a result of negligence, but rather were known risks and complications of CABG surgery.
The jury deliberated less than an hour and returned a unanimous verdict for the defense. The case was tried in Supreme Court, Oneida County, Hon. Erin P. Gall, J.S.C., presiding