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Lawsuit: Infant dies after nurse practitioner fails to tell family about spot that's suspicious for cancer

Delay in diagnosis and treatment allowed neuroblastoma to spread

A wrongful death medical malpractice lawsuit recently filed in Maryland illustrates the life-and-death dangers of poor health care communication.

The case arises from the death of a two-year-old little girl.

She was born at the prestigious Johns Hopkins Hospital and then admitted to the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

A nurse practitioner working in the NICU became aware of ultrasound findings of a cyst-like mass on the baby’s right adrenal gland. The adrenal glands are small, triangular-shaped structures located on top of both kidneys. They produce hormones that play essential functions including regulation of blood pressure, immunity, and metabolism.

The nurse practitioner wrote in the patient’s medical record that the suspicious abdominal mass could be a neuroblastoma. A neuroblastoma is a type of cancer that typically impacts children under the age of five years old, most commonly in and around the adrenal glands.

Depending on the particular clinical situation, neuroblastoma can typically be successfully treated with surgery, radiation, and/or chemotherapy. The overall five-year survival rate is over 80%, but for patients with a low-risk form of the disease, it’s over 95%.

Unfortunately, this young patient didn’t get the opportunity to be treated because, according to the medical malpractice lawsuit, the nurse practitioner didn’t bother to tell the parents. Although the nurse practitioner also recorded in the medical record a recommendation for a follow-up ultrasound after discharge from the hospital, the lawsuit alleges that the information wasn’t shared with parents and it also wasn’t contained in the discharge instructions.

For nearly two years after this precious little girl was born, her family had no idea the cancer was spreading throughout her body. After she began experiencing fevers and stomach problems, they took her for abdominal imaging.

Ultimately, her physicians discovered that she had neuroblastoma, which had spread to her abdomen, lymph nodes, upper chest, neck, skull, pelvis, spine and left femur. Despite chemotherapy and radiation, she |died about 10 months later.

The standard of care requires physicians, physician assistants (PAs), and nurse practitioners (NPs) to inform patients (or their parents), of suspicious or critical findings. Cases like this, though, show that these communications sometimes don’t happen.

That’s why we recommend requesting a copy of all results from laboratory studies, diagnostic radiology scans, and hospitalizations. Even though many people don’t understand all of the complex medical terminology, it’s straightforward enough for most people to spot abnormal results and ask questions of physicians and healthcare providers to get answers and make sure that nothing falls through the cracks.

If you’ve been seriously injured in Texas because of poor health care communication, then contact a top-rated experienced Texas medical malpractice lawyer for a free consultation about your potential case.

Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm PLLC, in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas. Contact him by calling 281-580-8800 or emailing him right now.


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