Medical Malpractice Case Report: $500,000 settlement for negligent performance of radio-frequency ablation procedure

Firm partner John F. Eisberg of Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P. secured a medical malpractice settlement of $500,000 settlement in a medical mistakes in surgery case involving the negligent performance of radio-frequency ablation procedure.  Read the following Minnesota Association (MAJ) for Justice Minnesota Case Report:

Selected Results*

(Excerpts taken with permission from Minnesota Trial Lawyers Association's (MTLA) "Minnesota Case Reports")  

A 42-year-old woman underwent a radio-frequency ablation procedure to treat a uterine endometrioma. This procedure, performed by a local interventional radiologist, involved pushing a needle-shaped probe through the skin and into the endometrioma and ablating it with heat.

In the days following the procedure, the woman experienced signs of developing peritonitis, including fever, abdominal pain and rigidity, and inability to hold down food and liquids. She reported these symptoms to the radiologist’s clinic, but the clinic only issued a prescription for a muscle relaxant. The clinic did not document any calls from the woman, including the call that led to issuance of the prescription.

The woman ultimately went to a local emergency room with a raging fever, peritonitis, and sepsis. The surgeon found that the ablation device had burned a hole in the woman’s small bowel. A portion of small bowel had to be removed. The woman has since lived with mild “dumping syndrome” because food cannot be fully digested. She likely will need a ventral hernia repair in the future. Her wage loss was $14,000, and medical bills were $87,000. She has lifting restrictions as well, and this impacts her ability to assist her wheel-chair bound husband and her special needs child.

The defendants’ insurer initially refused to settle this case and suit was commenced. Plaintiffs retained an additional expert at that point—a world-renown interventional radiologist—who was highly critical of the decision to perform a radio-frequency ablation procedure on this woman. The endometrioma was too small for an ablation procedure and was situated too close to a loop of bowel that was in an area where the patient had had previous surgery. Normally the loop of bowel would retract from the endometrioma when heat was applied during the procedure, but one could not assume that would occur in an area where adhesions could be expected from the previous surgery. The risk that a hole would be burned through the loop of bowel was too great, and the patient should have been referred for surgical excision of the endometrioma.

The insurer agreed to reconsider settlement after receipt of this expert’s opinion, and the case settled shortly thereafter.

Settlement:                  $500,000
Case Name:                 M. v. Local Radiologist and Clinic
Date of Disposition:       June, 2006
Attorneys:                    John F. Eisberg
                                   William J. Maddix