Cardiac catheterization has been one of the biggest successes of modern medicine, saving countless lives since the procedure was first introduced in the 1920s. With heart disease as one of the biggest killers of both men and women in the United States, cardiac catheterization is frequently used to both diagnose and treat disease. The procedure isn’t entirely without risk, though, and medical malpractice or negligence during a catheterization can result in disaster for patients and their families.
What Is Cardiac Catheterization?
A cardiac catheterization (often just called a “cath”) is a procedure in which a small incision is made into a vein or artery, most commonly at the groin, neck, or arm. A small tube is placed in the incision to grant access to the circulatory system, and a catheter device is fed into the tube.
The catheter itself is typically a long, slender device or wire. It is threaded through the body and up to the heart, where it can be used to perform a number of important medical tasks to assist in diagnosis. For example, the catheter may be used to collect blood samples or take biopsies of heart tissue, or measure blood pressure or oxygen levels.
Catheters may also be used to widen blocked blood vessels in an angioplasty, scrape away arterial plaque (cholesterol) buildup in an atherectomy, or to place other medical devices such as stents or IVC filters.
What Are the Risks of Cardiac Catheterization?
Catheterization is widely regarded as very safe, but it is still an invasive surgical procedure with certain risks. No surgical procedure is 100 percent safe. Some of the dangers of a cardiac catheterization procedure may include the following:
- Bleeding from the incision site
- Internal bleeding from damaged or ruptured vessels
- Dangerously low blood pressure
- Abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia)
- Heart attack
- Kidney damage
A dye is often injected into the body during these procedures to provide visual contrast on the fluoroscope (the “live” version of an X-ray) that the doctor uses to guide the catheter. An allergic reaction to this dye can be life-threatening.
While complications are a risk of any type of surgery, one of the biggest risks with cardiac catheterization is when a physician fails either to recognize or to properly treat complications when they occur. For example, one major risk of catheterization is that the device may dislodge a cholesterol deposit (called a plaque) or a blood clot. The plaque or clot could travel through the circulatory system and cause a blockage elsewhere, leading to a stroke, heart attack, pulmonary embolism, or the loss of a limb. If caught in time, there is a chance that the harm may be minimized. However, if the physician doesn’t recognize the signs immediately or treat the problem appropriately, the patient (or the patient’s surviving family) may be able to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against the doctor or hospital.
Filing a Medical Malpractice Claim
In order to make a successful medical malpractice claim for a botched cardiac catheterization procedure, survivors have up to two years to file a lawsuit. However, it’s important to begin the process as soon as possible after the incident, as a health care liability form must also be filed within 120 days to begin the investigation. Malpractice investigations can take a lot of time and technical know-how, even for an experienced attorney, and waiting longer can make your case even more difficult to prove.
If you were hurt or your loved one was killed as a result of medical malpractice during a cardiac catheterization procedure, your best move is to contact a medical malpractice attorney immediately. Your attorney will be able to help you determine your legal situation and whether you’re eligible to receive compensation for damages such as medical bills, rehabilitation, pain and suffering, lost wages, funeral costs, or loss of service.
When you’re ready to talk to a top-notch legal professional about your medical malpractice case, Wayne Wright LLP would like to hear from you. Call us by telephone, use the live chat box, or click on the contact link on this page for a free, no-obligations consultation regarding your case.