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Expert Blog

Experts of the Heart: Cardiologist Case Studies

In the ExpertsDirect stable of expert witnesses, we have an expert for every subject imaginable.

This Valentine’s Day, we thought it would be fitting to shed some light on a profession close to everyone’s heart: Cardiology

A cardiologist is a doctor that deals with the human heart, diagnosing and treating diseases and defects of the cardiovascular system. Cardiologists must undergo extensive education, having to complete additional specialisation training following the completion of a medical degree.

At ExpertsDirect, we feature expert cardiologists who specialise in all aspects of cardiology, including fetal cardiology, congenital heart defects, invasive cardiological procedures, valvular heart disease, venous thromboembolic disease, and heart failure. Our expert cardiologists have provided medico-legal reports for various Australian courts, from local courts to appellate.

In recognition of the important work that expert cardiologists undertake, we have provided several case studies as examples of the types of matters in which cardiologists could be engaged to provide expert witness comment.

Case Study #1: Heart Attack During Surgery

Facts:
The plaintiff was undergoing an elective rhinoplasty when he went into cardiac arrest, most likely due to an unexpected reaction to the anaesthetic. Regular heart rhythm was quickly restored. Following the restoration of normal heart rhythm, the decision was made to continue with the surgery.  Following the surgery’s completion, the plaintiff undertook legal action against the surgeon, alleging professional misconduct. Our expert cardiologist was engaged by the defendant to provide expert opinion regarding whether the surgeon’s actions were within professional standards

Finding:
The expert cardiologist concluded that in the circumstances it was reasonable to continue the surgery, and that the defendant acted appropriately in the circumstances. Since the expert cardiologist believed the cardiac arrest was likely caused by the anaesthetic, a repeat cardiac arrest in the circumstances was unlikely. Since a discontinued surgery would have created further risks, the expert cardiologist came to the conclusion that appropriate clinical judgement was exercised.

Case Study #2: Undiagnosed Arrhythmia

Facts:
The plaintiff sued her general practitioner, claiming damages for negligence, after undergoing cardiac arrest. The plaintiff alleged that the Defendant failed to exercise competence in his treatment of her from 2010-2011. The plaintiff underwent cardiac arrest in late 2011 and suffered significant ongoing medical problems as a result of this. The plaintiff had previously complained to her physician of shortness of breath, as well as light-headedness and dizziness. The plaintiff communicated that she had felt at risk of fainting several times but had never experienced full unconsciousness. The plaintiff alleged that, had the GP referred the plaintiff to a cardiologist, the plaintiff’s arrhythmia would have been identified, and the plaintiff’s cardiac arrest would not have taken place.

Finding:
The expert cardiologist came to the conclusion that the general practitioner had indeed failed to act in a way that was consistent with professional standards, from the perspective that a doctor behaving competently would have recognised that the symptoms experienced by the Plaintiff were likely to be related to be a heart problem, and therefore a referral to a specialist would have been the actions expected of a doctor. The expert gave evidence that, had appropriate treatment been received by the plaintiff, the cardiac arrest would have been unlikely to have taken place.

Cast Study #3: A Slow Ambulance

Facts:
The plaintiff, a middle-aged man who suffered from obesity and several related ailments suffered a heart attack while at his home with his family. An ambulance was called by his wife immediately upon him complaining of tightness in his chest. However, for reasons unknown the ambulance took almost 20 minutes to reach his property, despite the fact that he was located a 5-minute drive from the relevant hospital. Upon the ambulance arriving, the man was unable to be revived. The family of the deceased sued for damages. The expert in this matter was asked to comment as to whether, had the ambulance arrived more promptly, the deceased in this matter would have been likely to have been able to be revived.

Finding: 
The expert cardiologist concluded, that, had the ambulance arrived faster, the deceased’s chance of survival would have been considerable, although he would have likely still suffered brain damage

Takeaway:

Cardiology is a broad field with numerous specialisations. Therefore, an expert cardiologist, depending on their speciality, is able to comment on matters related to a range of medical problems involving the heart and circulatory systems, including paediatric cardiology, nuclear cardiology, invasive and non-invasive procedures, peripheral arterial disease, pacemaker placement, and hypertension. It is crucial to source an expert witness with the relevant specialisation, to ensure that they will be of most assistance to your case.

Along with a number of expert cardiologists, ExpertsDirect’s stable of expert witnesses features Medico-Legal experts in a variety of subject areas, from neurologists to experts in prosthetic. If you require an expert witness for a matter, whether medico-legal or otherwise, please feel free to get into contact with us for an obligation-free quote.

* Please note minor details have been changed in the above case studies to protect the identities of the parties involved.