Medical Malpractice for Pediatric Ear, Nose and Throat (Olaryngology) Operations

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The recent news of a California teenager who went in for a routine tonsillectomy and ended up brain dead because of complications reminds us all that “routine” childhood medical procedures are not without risks. Even though such risks may be small, when post-surgical complications occur, they can result in serious injury or death, and parents are entitled to seek legal help.

Ear, Nose and Throat Conditions in Children

Children experience many illnesses or injuries involving their ears, nose, throat, head, and neck during childhood. In fact, eartubes and tonsillectomies are two of the most common surgical procedure performed on children in the United States.

Some common ear, nose and throat conditions that occur in young children are ear infections (otitis media), swimmer’s ear, nose bleeds, sinus infections (sinusitis), and tonsillitis or pharyngitis. Some conditions that may require specialized care include:

– Congenital malformations of the ear, such as microtia and aural atresia;

– Middle ear conditions such as chronic otitis media;

– Conductive hearing loss and otosclerosis;

– Hearing loss;

– Cochlear implant evaluation, implantation, and rehabilitation;

– Velopharyngeal insufficiency;

– Sinus conditions, including those that require endoscopic sinus surgery;

– Surgical management of airway disorders such as laryngomalacia, tracheomalacia, subglottic stenosis, papillomas, vocal cord paralysis, and vocal nodules;

– Treatment and surgery for thyroid disorders;

– Otolaryngologic manifestations of gastroesophageal reflux disease;

– Hemangiomas;

– Vascular malformations and lymphatic malformations;

– Tonsils and adenoid disorders;

– Benign or malignant head and neck growth;

– Removal of aerodigestive tract foreign bodies; and

– Swallowing disorders.

General medical care for these conditions may be provided by the child’s pediatrician. However, specialized medical care is usually provided by a pediatric otolaryngologist, commonly called a pediatric ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor.

Malpractice and Pediatric Ear, Nose and Throat Procedures

All medical procedures involve some risk of complication. These risks need to be adequately disclosed so that the patient, or the parents in the case of a child, can decide whether the procedure should be performed.

Possible complications from ENT procedures or surgery may include bleeding, infection, swelling or bruising, changes or loss of smell or taste, blindness or vision changes, CSF leak or drainage of brain fluid into the nose, meningitis or brain infection, or unexpected cardiac, pulmonary or anesthesia reactions.

When a complication arises, it may be mild or severe. Complications that cause permanent or significant short term injury may result in litigation. For example, a recent analysis of pediatric ENT procedures looked at alleged negligent wrongdoing in ENT cases. Results of the study showed:

– Of the jury verdicts and settlement reports reviewed, 52.6% were resolved with a financial payment;

– The median damages awarded by juries was $874,190 and the median settlement award was $250,000;

– The most commonly litigated procedure was adenotonsillectomy (removal of the adenoid and tonsils);

– The most commonly named defendants were otolaryngologists (53%), with pediatricians and anesthesiologists the next most commonly named;

– The most common reason or reasons for legal actions were negligence (59%), permanent injury (44.9%), misdiagnosis/failure to diagnose in a timely manner (41%), and death (35.9%);

– Permanent injuries and airway-related complications increased the size of payments; and

– In general, the younger the child, the higher the financial award, with children between 1-5 years of age receiving the largest awards.

If you have questions about injuries your child suffered as a result of a complication from a medical procedure, call or text the lawyers at Tallahassee based Fasig & Brooks at (850) 222-3232. We are available to vigorously represent your interests and help you receive any damages to which your child is entitled.