Medical Malpractice/Vaginal ultrasound injury?
QUESTION: Hello: Have you ever heard of any injuries involving vaginal ultrasound procedures? I was an R.N. for 25 years and never heard of such a thing, UNTIL, my sister, age 76, had this test done. She felt a lot of pressure/pain during and after, but figured it would go away in time. The next day she still had quite a lot of pressure/tenderness, so decided to check herself out, using a mirror, and lo and behold, she could see, what she believes to be her uterus, protruding through her vaginal opening. It's called uterine prolapse, which she didn't have any sign of before this test. I am trying to find information on whether this can actually be caused by the procedure, because she will certainly need to have it surgically repaired.
Any information is greatly appreciated. Thank you, Heidi
ANSWER: It always amazes me how when people have a purely medical question, they ask it of a lawyer who never went to medical school. When lawyers do get questions such as yours with the thought of a medical malpractice suit, we need to do the research and then hire a medical doctor in the speciality to provide a qualified evaluation. Some cases are obvious but this one certainly isn't. You being a nurse and not having a clue about it yourself in proof of that. Why do you think I would have the answer? Anyhow, I looked at a few posts online about the procedure and I failed to find any complaints of a uterine prolapse. A prolapse was not listed anywhere I looked as being a known risk of the procedure. But, strange unanticipated things do happen.
I wish you had told me why she was having the procedure in the first place. Maybe it was for something that was a symptom of a developing prolapse but not yet diagnosed. Possible? That may have been the reason she was having it done, right? So, if that is the case, we could just speculate wildly that the ultrasound probe somehow induced the uterus to move downwards suddenly which it had been doing slowly already. Am I making any sense?
Bottom line is this however. Even if this is something that should not have happened, it is never going to amount to a medical malpractice case. Here's why: You didn't say she complained of big pain and/or bleeding or anything alarming during the exam. So it is highly unlikely that the doctor did anything grossly irregular or negligent. Even if you thought so, a malpractice case requires a doctor on the patient's side to say that the defendant doctor did the procedure in a way absolutely incorrect and that the doctor should have know better. Even if you find (and pay for) such a opinion, the sued doctor will have experts saying everything was done according to the STANDARD OF CARE, which is the legal requirement. But finally, even if the doctor did do something just "off the wall" stupid and wrong to cause the prolapse, no lawfirm is going to spend thousands and thousand of their money and hundreds of hours of work for the chance of getting a fee which is just a piece of the pie that a jury might, but probably would not award. A prolapse uterus in a 76 year old woman is extremely common, almost predictable and inevitable, correct? She obviously had some propensity for it, the process had already begun no doubt, arguably the probe caused some contractions or whatever to push it down further, but the net damage for the malpractice, which you couldn't prove anyhow, is not even close to having a dollar value making such a case viable. I am quite certain about this. I have represented patients in med mal cases for 35 years. I am on your side but I have given you an honest and correct answer to the best of my ability. P.S. Being a nurse for 25 years, you have certainly seem many many bad outcomes, complications, serious side effects from medical procedures, right? How many of those bad outcomes do YOU think happened because the doctor was negligent, screwed up badly and it should have never happened and the doctor should be dragged into court or pay hundreds of thousands to the patient?????????? How many times Heidi?? See my point?
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QUESTION: Hello: Thanks for getting back to me so quickly. I understand you are not a doctor, but wondered if you had ever heard of this occurring as a result of the test. I know that unintentional outcomes happen, and that not everyone responds in the same way, to the same treatment. My sister did tell the technician that she was in a lot of pain, during the procedure, which had been ordered because she'd been experiencing some annoying minor drainage. Even though injury from this seems almost non existent, I would say it is a possibility, especially if the probe is being wielded like weapon. I am not advocating dragging anyone to court, but if they broke it, I figure they should fix it.
One thing I hope others who read this get, is to be responsible for your own health, and stay away from doctors unless you're experiencing an emergency. In my sister's case, she doesn't only have some slightly annoying drainage to deal with, now she's looking at surgery, and all that it entails.
Thank you for your expertise. (Not too sure about the inevitability of womens' uteruses falling out with age, but you're right, none of this can be proven.) Wishing you a relaxing weekend. Heidi
A nurse of 25 years saying "stay away from doctors" ??? Won't see that too often. Maybe you did see plenty of poor results to procedures. But you also well know that any drug, any medical procedure, any surgery carries some degree of risk even when everything is done correctly. Conversely, that just because something does goes wrong doesn't mean necessarily that somebody screwed up, was negligent, careless, etc. Stuff happens anyhow. Take care.