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Articles Tagged with surgery

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Bair Hugger

By Jessica Surber
Attorney, English, Lucas, Priest and Owsley, LLP

In the late 1980s, Dr. Scott Augustine, an anesthesiologist, invented what he thought would be a very helpful device for patients and doctors: a forced air warming blanket. The blanket is a single-use device that covers patients during and after surgery. It is hollow and filled with warm, forced air. The technology has become widely used throughout hospitals all over the country, and at least initially, was hailed as a way to help patients heal faster and bleed less during and after surgery.

Since he invented this technology, Dr. Augustine stepped away from Arizant, the company that manufactures the device. The Bair Hugger forced air warming blanket is manufactured and marketed by 3M and its subsidiary, Arizant. 3M purchased Arizant in 2010.

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In a recent Kentucky Supreme Court case, a medical malpractice suit was filed by a couple against a doctor and his practice. The doctor had performed a thyroidectomy on the wife. She started experiencing breathing difficulties the night of the surgery. She was placed on a ventilator for four days and stayed in the hospital a total of 12 days. Post-surgery, she had trouble breathing and talking. She consulted with an otolaryngologist. He diagnosed her with right vocal cord paralysis. The couple filed a medical negligence lawsuit in connection with the thyroidectomy.

During discovery, the doctor asked whether other physicians had stated that he deviated from good medical practice. The plaintiffs’ response stated that a surgeon had verified there was a departure from the appropriate standard of care to cut or otherwise alter the vocal cord. The response cited various treating physicians. The doctor filed a motion to set the case for trial. The judge set a schedule requiring the couple to disclose expert witnesses on a particular date. The order by the judge did not contain a specific deadline for disclosure of expert witnesses. It did require quick and efficient witness disclosure.

Three years after the suit was filed the doctor moved for summary judgment. He argued they had failed to identify a surgeon who would testify he deviated from the standard of care. The plaintiffs filed a motion to reschedule the trial and to get an extension of time to list experts. They argued that summary judgment was not appropriate because evidence in the depositions raised genuine issues of material fact. The woman’s medical records showed he was being treated for hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid before the surgery. She consulted with an internist because she was short of breath and had palpitations. An ultrasound showed she had an enlarged right lobe of thyroid with a small lesion. She was referred to the defendant doctor to see whether removal of the gland was appropriate. She consulted with him once before the surgery and signed a consent form in connection with it. The form explained she had a “thyroid storm.” The internal medicine doctor said a thyroid storm is an emergency condition. The appropriate treatment is hospitalization and consultation with an endocrinologist. Surgery is not appropriate. Continue reading