OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) – Kaiser doctors who ignored a doctor’s pleas to place a catheter in her femoral artery rather than in her arm now face a lawsuit alleging permanent damage to the doctor’s arm.
Dr. Joanne Loritz and her husband Mark Homer sued Permanente Medical Group, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and Dr. Garwood Gee in Alameda County Superior Court for professional negligence, medical battery and loss of consortium following the April 2011 incident.
Loritz says she went to Kaiser’s facility in Vallejo for a cardiovascular stress test due to her history of high cholesterol and complaints of pain in her right arm and shortness of breath during physical exertion. During the stress test, Lortiz experienced the same symptoms, and the attending physician there recommended a cardiac catheterization procedure to further evaluate her heart condition.
Lortiz says in her complaint that because Kaiser’s Vallejo facility does not perform cardiac stent placements, she was transferred by ambulance to a Kaiser hospital in San Francisco for the surgery.
“During the preparation for the catheterization, Dr. Loritz informed the nurses who were prepping her for the procedure that she had a history of difficult IV line insertion during a previous cardiac procedure in her right arm and was told she had small blood vessels in that arm. Because of that, she asked that the catheterization be performed through her femoral artery in her leg and not through her right arm. The Kaiser nurse preparing her for the procedure agreed, and the nurse prepared the femoral artery area for the procedure,” Lortiz says in her complaint.
Before the surgery, Lortiz says that defendant Dr. Gee told her that he intended to place the catheter in the radial artery of her right arm. Again Lortiz expressed her concern about radial placement based on her previous experience, and she says Dr. Gee agreed to place the catheter in Loritz’s leg instead.
“The last thing plaintiff remembers before losing consciousness due to sedation was being prepped for the procedure at the femoral artery site,” Lortiz says in her complaint. “When plaintiff regained consciousness following the procedure, she discovered that defendant Dr. Gee had in fact performed the procedure through her right radial artery.”
By the evening of Apr. 7, 2011, Lortiz had developed right hand and arm pain and her right hand had turned white. She says Kaiser attempted to discharge her anyway, but she refused and asked to be reexamined. Eventually, Kaiser doctors performed and ultrasound and found a blood clot in Loritz’s arm that extended from her wrist to her upper arm.
Loritz says the blood thinner Heparin was administered throughout the night of Apr. 7, but by morning the situation had not improved. According to her complaint, Loritz underwent another surgery to remove the blood clot and restore blood flow.
“However, plaintiff-who is right-hand dominant-has experienced pain and weakness in her right arm ever since the Apr. 7, 2011 cardiac catheterization as a result of the thrombosis and the surgery to repair it,” Loritz states in her complaint. “Plaintiff has been informed that she suffered potential nerve injury as a result of the thrombosis. The pain and weakness has been debilitating, causing plaintiff not to be able to work and additionally causing significant mental and emotional anguish. Plaintiff has been forced to undergo significant physical and occupational therapy, and other medical treatment as a result of the thrombosis which developed subsequent to the Apr. 7, 2011 cardiac catheterization.”
Lortiz continues: “Defendants, and their employees and agents, including defendant Garwood Gee, M.D. who treated Dr. Loritz as described herein and as evidenced in the Kaiser medical records, breached the standard of care by performing the Apr. 7, 2011 cardiac catheterization through plaintiff Dr. Lortiz’s radial artery and/or by failing to administer Heparin or other anticoagulants prior, during or immediately following the procedure, which is required by the standard of care.
“More likely than not, had Dr. Gee performed the procedure through plaintiff’s femoral artery instead of her radial artery, plaintiff would not have suffered the complications which she did suffer as a result of the Apr. 7, 2011 transradial cardiac catheterization. In addition, had Dr. Gee administered Heparin or another similar anticoagulant in conjunction with [the procedure], plaintiff would not have suffered the clot and/or thrombosis at issue. Defendants’ negligence was the actual and proximate cause of their damages,” Loritz alleges in her complaint.
“Further, defendants never obtained informed consent from Dr. Lortiz to perform the procedure through the right radial artery, the location of the catheterization that was actually performed. As such, defendants committed a battery by performing a medical procedure-a radial catheterization-that was substantially different from the procedure to which she consented, which was a femoral catheterization,” Lortiz’s complaint states.
Loritz says she believes Dr. Gee never had any intention of abiding by her wishes, but planned to place the catheter in her arm all along.
“On information and belief, [Dr. Gee] did so because he was conducting research on the use of the radial artery when performing cardiac catheterizations, a relatively new approach. Dr. Gee failed to inform plaintiff of his research prior to performing the subject procedure. Thus, despite Dr. Lortiz’s specific warnings that the radial artery should not be used, Dr. Gee chose to place his research ahead of his patient’s best interests and performed an unconsented to procedure,” Loritz claims in her complaint.
Dr. Loritz and her husband seek general and special compensatory damages against the Kaiser defendants.
The couple is represented by Carter Zinn and T. Andrew Davies of the Zinn Law Firm in San Francisco.