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Medical Negligence – a&e Claims
There is no doubt A&E is the sharp end of medicine. Every condition which could present as an emergency, will pass through A&E at some time. This tests the knowledge and experience of A&E doctors. From time to time, under-pressure doctors will miss symptoms or signs that in retrospect were clear enough. Because of this, doctors sometimes reach a diagnosis that seems just about plausible, but with a small amount of further consideration, would have been understood to be implausible.
One such example is pulmonary embolism (PE). This is a when a clot blocks a blood vessel in the lungs. If it is not diagnosed, it can be fatal.
Junior doctors carry out many preliminary (triage) assessments in A&E. Obviously, junior doctors will not recognise some conditions or some risks. A junior doctor who is not sure what diagnosis best fits a patient, must refer the patient to a more senior doctor. Such is the case with a potential diagnosis of PE.
Acknowledging what you do not know, is as important for a doctor as knowing what you do know.
A test called a D-dimer will identify PE. It takes a couple of hours to get results. With a positive finding of a PE, blood thinners will be applied.
Without a D-dimer (or one or two other tests, including CT imaging) the clot could be fatal within 24 hours of a failed diagnosis, a failed diagnosis that will be expensive to the NHS, and will probably sting the conscience of a doctor early in their career.
Even though it may be fair to have some sympathy for a hard-pressed A&E doctor, his or her negligence could be fatal. The example of pulmonary embolism has not been used randomly. The patient, a man in his late 50’s died.
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