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Pittsburgh Medical Malpractice Lawyer Blog

Shocking prescription error results in fatal morphine overdose

  • 27
  • August

It's something that has happened to virtually everyone at some point in their lives: making a mistake while on the clock due to fatigue, complacence, inattention or some combination of the three. For most people in most professions, a missed meeting, wrong keystroke or late report results in nothing more than inconvenience and perhaps a bit of embarrassment. However, there are some professions -- particularly those in the medical field -- in which people simply cannot afford to make these kinds of mistakes as lives are on the line.

To illustrate, consider a recent tragedy in the southern United States, where a mother filed a lawsuit against a pharmacy after an otherwise unbelievable medication error took the life of her six-year-old daughter.

Questions remain concerning anesthesia and pediatric patients

  • 20
  • August

As most people already know, there is no such thing as a risk-free surgery. However, it's important to understand that it's not just the procedure itself that poses these health risks, but also the tools and medications used by the medical staff. For instance, one of the major surgery risks is actually posed by anesthesia, which if administered improperly by the anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist can result in everything from liver poisoning and brain damage to a coma or even death.

Interestingly, while it's a generally accepted tenet in the medical community that anesthesia is safe for adult patients, the answer is not quite so clear cut concerning pediatric patients. That's because various studies over the years have linked anesthesia exposure among young patients to long-term behavioral issues and learning deficits, while an equal number of other studies have reached the exact opposite conclusion.

In recognition of the need for answers, both the Food and Drug Administration and the International Anesthesia Research Society joined forces in 2010 to start a program called SmartTots -- Strategies for Mitigating Anesthesia-Related neuroToxicity in Tots.

Hospital initiative to cut infection rates sees great success

  • 15
  • August

Hospitals across the United States have seen a startling uptick in the number of patients contracting incredibly serious, and often deadly, infections over the last decade. In fact, statistics show that these hospital-acquired infections -- which carry names like Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Clostridium difficile (C. diff) and Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) -- affect roughly 1.7 million Americans a year and cost up to $45 billion annually.

The unfortunate reality of all this is that the majority of these hospital-acquired infection cases could likely be avoided altogether if hospital staff had chosen to implement basic infection-control strategies and sterilization procedures.

The good news, however, is that some hospitals appear to be catching on and are now actively taking steps to keep patients safe.

Can a phone app really cut down on medication errors?

  • 12
  • August

Thanks to the development of highly sophisticated applications over the last several years, many Americans have gone from simply being attached to their smartphones to becoming entirely reliant upon them. In fact, an increasing number of smartphone owners now use their devices to actively manage their health, perhaps using an app to keep track of their calorie consumption, monitor their sleep habits or even look for medical guidance.

Interestingly, a group of medical professionals and healthcare entrepreneurs have now devised an app called MedSnap that is specially designed to help prevent medication errors.

App users simply place pills flat on the surface of a plastic MedSnap tray, open the app and take a picture. The app then processes the pictures, matching the image of each pill against a comprehensive library, before providing the user with a pop-up screen that contains a wealth of information. For example, the pop-up screen provides the name of each medication, their typical uses and, most significantly, possible adverse interactions with the other medications in the picture.

Lawsuit accuses UPMC oncologist of delayed diagnosis of cancer

  • 09
  • August

There is perhaps no three-word phrase more universally feared among patients than "you have cancer." These three little words will invariably change not only the patient's life, but the lives of the patient's friends and family members as well. It goes without saying that, given the gravity of the stakes involved, physicians -- particularly oncologists -- must do everything in their power to diagnose cancer as soon as possible so that it can be properly treated and the patient given the best possible chance.

A lawsuit filed this past Monday in the Allegheny County Common Pleas Court by the husband of a woman who died of liver cancer in June 2012 accuses both the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and one of its oncologists of failing to do just this.

Young woman tackles challenges of cerebral palsy head on

  • 06
  • August

When it comes to cerebral palsy, most people have only a very cursory understanding of this rather serious medical condition. For instance, while most people know that it can result in muscle spasms and mobility issues, they may not know that it can also result in speech, hearing and even vision problems.

Furthermore, they might mistakenly believe that cerebral is a purely hereditary condition or seemingly random. The truth is that while experts have not yet identified all of its causes, it is commonly believed that medical negligence causing brain injuries in utero, during delivery or shortly after birth can result in its onset.

Lastly, another common mistake that people make concerning those diagnosed with cerebral palsy is that their condition somehow limits them from interacting with the world around them. As illustrated by a recent story out of an NFL training camp, this couldn't be any further from the truth.

Prototype shows how hospital rooms should evolve

  • 02
  • August

From improved patient-staff ratios and adjustment of shift lengths to enhanced communication initiatives and medical checklists, health experts across the U.S. have offered many solutions to help combat medical errors in hospital settings. While these solutions certainly seem viable and have enjoyed varying levels of success, they have yet to drastically reduce the occurrence of hospital negligence.

Interestingly, the nonprofit group NXT Health along with Clemson University's Healthcare and Architecture Graduate Program have created something that they believe could significantly reduce everything from medication errors and patient falls to hospital-acquired infections and other forms of avoidable patient harm.

Pittsburgh-area researchers tapped to lead $16.5M TBI study

  • 30
  • July

In the unfortunate event that your child suffers a traumatic head injury while engaged in a favorite pastime or is in some sort of accident, you will undoubtedly be headed to the nearest hospital as quickly as possible. Upon your arrival, your child will immediately be taken care of by a team of physicians and nurses whose specialized training gives you some semblance of comfort.

What it may interest you to learn, however, is that the TBI treatment your child receives at that particular hospital may differ considerably from a hospital across the nation, across the state or even across town. That's because there is currently no uniform method of treating TBIs in pediatric patients here in the U.S. despite the fact that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ranks it as the leading cause of death among children.

How a simple miscommunication among MDs had tragic results

  • 26
  • July

Solid communication among medical professionals is not only vital to running a successful practice but an absolute necessity when it comes to patient care both here in Pennsylvania and across the nation. If doctors, nurses, pharmacists, laboratory technicians and other staff members are not on the same page when it comes to a particular patient, the results can be nothing short of disastrous.

To illustrate, consider a case out of the state of Washington, where the family of an 8-year-old girl was recently awarded over $15 million -- believed to be one of the largest medical malpractice awards in state history. Here, a judge found that the failure of two physicians to properly communicate with one another regarding a seemingly simple issue resulted in the girl’s suffering a catastrophic brain injury.

The girl, we'll call her MacKenzie, was born with a serious heart defect in 2004 that necessitated a transplant at a very young age. However, in the years following the transplant, MacKenzie made remarkable progress in terms of her health and was living the life of the typical child.

Just how safe is a popular type of brain surgery?

  • 22
  • July

As outlined in previous discussions, there is perhaps nothing more devastating than a traumatic brain injury. Whether the result of a sudden accident, medical mistake, or other negligent or reckless conduct, a TBI can have deadly or lasting repercussions, including impaired cognitive and motor function, memory problems and mood disorders, to name only a few.

Over the years, however, medical professionals have devised new methods to help save the lives of TBI patients and mitigate neurological trauma.

One such method is a procedure called depressive craniectomy, in which a team of neurosurgeons relieves potentially deadly swelling in the brain by removing a portion of a patient's skull and reattaching it after the swelling has abated. Interestingly, the portion of the skull removed during the depressive craniectomy -- or hemicraniectomy -- can actually be frozen for months at a time before being reattached or replaced with a prosthesis.

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