Decatur, GA—Trial continues today in DeKalb County State Court in a medical malpractice case involving a woman who died after a needle punctured her heart during supposedly routine surgery to insert a permanent catheter. Larry Bailey et al. v. J. Eduardo Corso MD et al (12A45372).
According to statements and testimony in the case, on August 12, 2011, Dr. J. Eduardo Corso performed surgery on Arlene Bailey to insert a catheter in her neck to enable her to receive dialysis treatment. The surgery required Dr. Corso to insert a needle into Bailey’s jugular vein and then run the needle through her circulatory system to her heart.
At some time during the surgery, the needle punctured Bailey’s right ventricle causing blood to flow into her pericardial sac. As a result, Bailey went into cardiac arrest, and the oxygen flow to her brain diminished. Bailey lapsed into a vegetative state and died a few days later. Bailey’s brother and sister, Larry Bailey and Earlene Gutherie, the administrators of her estate, filed the present suit against Dr. Corso and Peachtree Vascular Associates, the group with which the surgeon was affiliated.
In his opening statement, plaintiffs’ attorney Alphonso Craig said that the catheterization was supposed to be an “in-and-out routine procedure” from which Bailey could walk home afterwards. However, while Corso was inserting the needle, it “veered through the tricuspid valve” into the right ventricle and punctured the ventricle.
Craig characterized the standard of care Corso was required to meet during the surgery as “safety rules.” In Craig’s words, “We’re suing Dr. Corso because he broke some very basic safety rules… They’re rules that are in place for physicians and surgeons to follow so that everyone is protected. The first rule that the surgeon broke is that a surgeon must pay careful attention during the surgery. We’ll see that Dr. Corso did not pay careful attention during this operation. We know that because he … exited the operating room without even knowing what happened.”
According to Craig, Dr. Corso was not using a fluoroscope at the critical time during the surgery and did not see that the catheter needle had entered Bailey’s right ventricle. Craig also criticized Dr. Corso for failing to recognize the possibility of a puncture when he returned to the operating room after Bailey’s blood pressure dropped. Instead, over 30 minutes passed before he performed an echocardiogram, at the suggestion of another doctor, which revealed fluid around the heart. Twenty minutes later, another surgeon repaired the puncture in Bailey’s heart, and her blood pressure stabilized.
Defense attorney Daniel Huff agreed that Bailey suffered a heart puncture but said it was an unavoidable complication of the surgery. Huff continued, “When you think about the standard of care in this case, the plaintiffs always want you to focus on the outcome. Dr. Corso will agree that the perforation of the right ventricle … that’s not supposed to happen … that’s not why I got into vascular surgery; this is not the outcome that any of us wanted for Ms. Bailey. The question you have to answer is did this happen because he was careless and negligent and committing malpractice or is this one of those complications that takes place when someone is doing the right thing, taking the appropriate steps.”
Huff said Dr. Corso did use a fluoroscope while the needle was being inserted in Ms. Bailey and that the puncture could not have occurred at that time. Instead, the defense believes that the injury occurred later in the operation, when the needle was being removed. According to Huff, a fluoroscope Is not customarily used at that time in a catheterization.
Huff also stated that the evidence in the case supported the defense’s theory. According to the hospital’s anesthesia records, Bailey’s blood pressure remained normal during the operation and did not drop until after the procedure concluded. If the injury had occurred earlier in the operation, Bailey’s vital signs would have dropped much earlier. Further, the fact that Bailey successfully received dialysis treatment in the days after the operation indicated that the catheter had been installed in the proper place and was fully operational. Huff also said that an entire team of doctors worked on Bailey continuously after her blood pressure dropped in an attempt to figure out the cause of her medical problems.
Testimony in the case is expected to continue for the remainder of this week.
Attorneys in this case include Alphonso Craig of the Craig Firm of Atlanta and Keishan Davis of Townes, Davis & Associates of Tucker for the plaintiffs, and Daniel Huff of Huff Powell Bailey of Atlanta for the defense.
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