The plaintiff, a 48-year-old female, came under the care of the defendant rheumatologist in March 1995 for her relapsing polychondritis, an autoimmune disease treated with high dose corticosteroids (Prednisone).
In June 1995, the rheumatologist ordered a plain x-ray to rule out avascular necrosis, a disease causing a decreased blood flow to the head of the femur. After the x-ray was reported as negative, the rheumatologist started the plaintiff on a short course of low dose Prednisone to treat her symptoms of hip pain.
In August 1995, the plaintiff was diagnosed with Stage III avascular necrosis, requiring her to undergo bilateral hip replacement surgery in September 1995 and at least one, if not two, hip surgeries in the future. Plaintiff contended that the negative plain x-ray did not rule out avascular necrosis and that an MRI should have been ordered.
The defense maintained that ordering a plain x-ray and blood test met the standard of care and that the defendant would have ordered an MRI if the hip pain persisted, which it did not. The defense also argued that, due to the plaintiff’s long term steroid use between 1982 and 1994, by June 1995, her avascular necrosis already had reached the point where hip replacement surgery was needed.
The resulting verdict was for the defense.