May 22, 2018, PNLR News | The American Association For Justice

May 22, 2018, PNLR News

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Failure to diagnose postoperative infection

photo of petri dish with bacteria grown on it

Suit against an orthopedist and a hospital alleged failure to adequately investigate a child’s postsurgical complaints, monitor him closely, and review his lab tests and MRI. Had the physician done so, the plaintiff claimed, he would have received timely treatment for his wound infection and would not have developed complications. The jury awarded $2.75 million. Humphries v. Wood.
 

Kellan Humphries, a minor, injured his tailbone in a bike accident. He consulted orthopedist Kirkham Wood, who performed a coccygectomy at Massachusetts General Hospital. At a postoperative visit with Wood’s physician assistant (PA) approximately two weeks later, Humphries complained of pain. He was prescribed Vicodin and advised to return in six weeks. Humphries’s pain persisted, and the PA prescribed Valium. The following month, a physician at the treating orthopedic clinic, who was under Wood’s supervision, examined Humphries and noted drainage and redness around the wound, plus tenderness. The physician ordered no imaging studies or lab tests. Humphries later underwent an MRI, which showed fluid collection indicative of a possible abscess. Ten days later, Wood withdrew fluid and sent it for a culture.

Almost a year later, when Humphries’s primary care physician noted drainage at the surgical site, his family sought a second opinion. This led to a hospitalization for incision and drainage of a pericoccygeal abscess. Additionally, he was diagnosed as having osteomyelitis several months later. His condition persists, and he suffers from recurrent fistulas.

Humphries sued Wood and Mass General, alleging failure to adequately investigate the child’s postsurgical complaints, monitor him closely, and review his lab tests and the MRI. Had Wood done so, the plaintiff claimed, he would have received timely treatment for his wound infection and would not have developed osteomyelitis and persistent fistulas.

The jury awarded $2.75 million. The case is on appeal.

Citation: Humphries v. Wood, No. SUCV2014-01154D (Mass. Super. Ct. Suffolk Cnty. Dec. 19, 2017).

Plaintiff counsel: AAJ members Florence A. Carey and Elizabeth N. Mulvey, both of Boston.