Botched Heart Surgery Results in Permanent Damage — Family of 5-year-old Wins $15 Million at Trial

A healthy 5-year-old girl, from Toronto, Ontario, sustained permanent brain damage after a surgeon performed a common heart surgery incorrectly. The plaintiffs were successful at trial and the family of the girl will recover up to $15 million dollars.

The plaintiff was born with a congenital heart condition called Tetralogy of Fallot (a hole between the two ventricles of her heart). This narrowed the outflow of blood and thickened the muscle inside the chambers. She went to a Toronto hospital for elective cardiac catheterization, an operation to confirm the condition and repair it surgically. During the operation, the doctor did not remove enough muscle and the muscle that was removed was removed from the wrong location of the heart. This resulted in incorrect pressure readings, which made the problem appear to be resolved after the surgery when it was not.

The plaintiff was taken to the ICU after surgery. Soon thereafter, she developed heart dysrhythmias and her blood pressure (BP) dropped. Her poor cardiac output persisted until the morning and she developed metabolic acidosis and decreased urine output. She began to have seizures and became tachycardic. At no point did anyone in the ICU try to diagnose her, despite the fact that her symptoms were uncommon.

Finally, two days after her surgery, an echocardiogram showed the residual muscle bundles. After performing the second surgery, the plaintiff’s heart stabilized, but the delay in identifying the problem had already caused central nervous system injury, renal failure, uncontrollable heart dysrhythmias and ventricular outflow tract stenosis (narrowing of the blood vessels). Had this been performed the day before, prior to her condition worsening, the muscle bundle would have been found and the plaintiff would have avoided the severe and permanent brain damage.

As a result of the brain damage, the plaintiff now suffers from a learning disability, a seizure disorder, loss of balance and developmental delay. She also had nerve damage around her eyes and motor problems. She will function at the adaptive behavioural level of a 5-year-old and will require direct supervision for the rest of her life.

Please see the News & Events section of our website for the Toronto Star article relating to this case.

Sommers Roth & Elmaleh Professional Corporation has over 40 years of experience in medical malpractice litigation in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), Ontario, and across Canada.

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The above information is not legal advice. Past results of cases and recoveries by our medical malpractice lawyers against hospitals, doctors, midwives, nurses and other healthcare professionals are not necessarily indicative of future results. The amounts recovered and other litigation outcomes will vary according to the facts in individual cases.