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Can I Sue for a Stroke After Heart Valve Replacement Surgery in Maryland?

Treatment for an ongoing medical condition is not always a straight line.  Heart disease often has progress and setbacks that can make you healthier and more resilient or take you five steps backward and make you more vulnerable to heart attacks and strokes.  If you suffered a stroke after a heart valve replacement, it is possible that this was due to a medical mistake, not just the normal ups and downs of treatment for heart disease.

In many cases, a stroke can result after a heart valve replacement.  It is not necessarily clear whether the increased risk of stroke from various valve replacement procedures is a baked-in, natural consequence of these procedures or whether the choice of which procedure to use might affect the risk of stroke.  Additionally, there is a concern that the procedure itself might have been unnecessary, thus introducing an increased risk of stroke without the need.  If your doctor made a mistake in treatment that helped cause your stroke, then it could entitle you to a lawsuit against them.

For help with your case, contact the Maryland medical malpractice attorneys at Rice, Murtha & Psoras today at (410) 694-7291 for a free case evaluation.

Heart Valve Replacement and the Risk of Stroke

Various studies, including this study from the American Heart Association, discuss the risk of stroke after aortic valve replacement surgery.  Traditionally, surgical replacement is the method to replace the aortic valve, meaning that the doctor will perform surgery to get to the valve and replace it.  However, transcatheter aortic valve replacement can be used in some cases instead of surgery if surgery would be dangerous.  However, studies at this time did suggest that the transcatheter option might have a higher risk of stroke than the surgical option.

In any patient with a severe enough case of heart disease that they need a heart valve replaced, there is a potential risk of stroke.  Even so, the doctors should not do something to make the risk of stroke worse, especially if that risk of stroke might outweigh the risk of other complications like death or heart attack from the non-functioning valve.  In some cases, it may be a choice between whether the patient dies now from a heart malfunction or whether they die afterward from a stroke, but in the majority of cases – as strokes only affect a minority of patients – the heart valve replacement should be a new lease on life for the recipient.

Is a Stroke Normal After a Heart Valve Replacement?

Generally speaking, a stroke is not normal.  Strokes are only caused by severe medical conditions and sometimes the risk of stroke is made worse by interventions.  However, the aforementioned study showed surgical aortic heart valve replacement to have a stroke incidence of around 2.1% – meaning that only 2.1% of patients who received a surgical heart valve replacement suffered a stroke afterward.

Transcatheter aortic heart valve replacement did show nearly double the risk of stroke at the time of the study, with 3.8% of valve replacement patients suffering a stroke afterward.  This means that while a stroke is by no means normal or even common after a heart valve replacement, it is potentially more common after a transcatheter procedure compared to a surgical procedure.

Can You Sue for a Stroke After a Heart Valve Replacement in Maryland?

Whether you can sue for any medical treatment or not means having your Baltimore medical malpractice attorney look at the standard of care and confer with doctors and experts.  They will look at the type of procedure to gather more information about whether the procedure was performed properly and whether the doctor’s care met the standard of care or not.

Defining the Standard of Care

In any negligence claim, the courts will look at whether the defendant violated a duty.  The duty, in the case of medical malpractice, is the duty to follow the “standard of care.”  This standard is not something written down in a statute or a textbook but rather comes from what practicing physicians in the relevant field would and would not do to treat a patient with similar symptoms.

Generally, this standard is going to be set by doctors with similar training and experience.  Our attorneys will be able to call on these physicians and have them review your case to determine what the standard of care was and whether your doctor’s care fell below that standard, thus causing or unjustifiably increasing your risk of a stroke.

Applying the Standard of Care

Our lawyers can have other doctors review your medical records and look at the symptoms, tests, and medical history your doctor was presented with.  If they would have chosen not to pursue heart valve replacement, then it is likely that performing the procedure at all was potentially an example of medical malpractice.  In some cases, the risk of surgery is too high, and it might have been better to try other procedures or treatment options first.  If those options were already attempted or you were in a medical emergency, then it is likely that performing the heart valve replacement was warranted.

It is possible that you gravely needed a heart valve replacement, but the doctor’s choice of which procedure to use might have been a mistake as well.  Depending on your preexisting risk of stroke or medical history, you might not be a strong candidate for the procedure that has a higher risk of stroke.  In that case, it might have been a medical mistake for your doctor to use a transcatheter procedure instead of surgical heart valve replacement.

There is also a possibility that you might have been given inadequate post-procedure care.  Failing to put you on blood thinners after heart valve replacement might have left you at a higher risk of stroke.  Additionally, this study discusses the fact that the American College of Cardiology usually recommends 3 months of anticoagulants after heart valve replacement and discusses whether that length is proper.  Failing to administer those drugs might have also fallen below the standard of care.

Aside from prescriptions, other forms of post-procedure care, such as follow-up appointments and cardiac rehab, might have also reduced your risk of stroke.  Failing to keep up to date with the most recent recommendations could constitute malpractice, especially if it resulted in a stroke.

Contact Our Maryland Medical Malpractice Attorneys Today

If you need help determining whether you suffered from medical malpractice, call Rice, Murtha & Psoras at (410) 694-7291 for a free case review with our Laurel, MD medical malpractice lawyers.