Plaintiff presented to the hospital in a semi-comatose state. She had been previously diagnosed with a pituitary tumor and underwent surgery to remove that tumor. As part of her treatment a ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt was placed to drain excess cerebral spinal fluid.
Plaintiff was then admitted to the intensive care unit to the service of the hospitalist service, including the defendant. While in the hospital, she greatly improved, and the treating neurosurgeon felt she could be transferred out of the ICU to a regular floor.
However, during the afternoon and into the evening, before leaving the ICU, plaintiff developed a severe headache that was not responding to pain medications, vomited, and developed bradycardia, with a heart rate into the 40's.
The hospitalist caring for the patient evaluated her and did not suspect that her symptoms were the result of increased intracranial pressure or a malfunctioning shunt because she appeared relatively stable at the time of his evaluation. Two hours after the evaluation, she had a seizure and suffered a terminal brain hernation and brain death.
Plaintiff's experts testified that the defendant deviated from the standard of care by failing to follow-up more aggressively on her suspicion that the patient's shunt was malfunctioning and had led to a dangerous increase in the patient's intracranial pressure.
Defense argued that defendant complied with the standard of care when she contacted the neurosurgeon to discuss concerns with him, and he assured her the patient's shunt was not the cause of her problems.
The jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant.