Emergency Room Malpractice: Hypertensive Crisis

Emergency Room Malpractice: Hypertensive Crisis

February 1, 2023

Attorney Matzus recently resolved an emergency room malpractice case involving the failure to timely diagnose and appropriately treat a patient who was experiencing a hypertensive (high blood pressure) crisis. As a result of the delay in diagnosis the hypertensive crisis and administering anti-hypertensive medication, the patient suffered a massive stroke that resulted in significant and profound cognitive impairment and paralysis of one side of the patient’s body.

The patient presented to the emergency department at a local hospital in Pittsburgh, PA complaining of a severe thunderclap headache, diaphoresis (excessive sweating) and severely elevated blood pressure. Additionally, the patient was taking a particular medication that also increased his risk of having a hypertensive crisis. The patient told the emergency room physician that he was on a medication that increased his risk of a hypertensive crisis.

Despite the patient presenting with textbook symptoms of a severe hypertensive crisis and despite being told by the patient, who was also a physician, that he was having a hypertensive crisis caused by his medication, the emergency room physician ignored the patient and never considered that the patient may be experiencing a life-threatening hypertensive crisis caused his underlying medication. Rather, the emergency room physician simply diagnosed the patient as suffering from an atypical headache or migraine.

The emergency room physician never ordered anti-hypertensive medications. Ultimately, after waiting in the emergency room for a prolonged period of time, the patient suffered a massive stroke. 

After lying in the emergency room for a prolonged period of time, the patient developed facial paralysis, and slurred speech. The patient’s wife alerted the emergency department medical providers to this change in her husband’s condition, and they performed an emergency CT scan on the patient. Unfortunately, the CT scan revealed that the patient suffered a massive stroke. After the patient manifested signs of stroke, the emergency room physician finally ordered anti-hypertensive medication to control the patient’s blood pressure. While the medication worked and lowered the patient’s blood pressure, it was too little, too late. As a result of the stroke, the patient suffered a profound brain injury that caused permanent and irreversible brain damage resulting in cognitive impairment as well as left-sided hemiparesis/paralysis. 

The stroke was an inevitable outcome caused by his severely elevated blood pressure. There was a very effective anti-hypertensive medication that could have and should have been administered to the patient. If the emergency room doctor would have administered the anti-hypertensive medication to the patient, it would have prevented the patient’s stroke. The case was litigated vigorously for several years and ultimately the defendants agreed to settle the case for a confidential settlement amount.


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