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Medical Verdicts

Could timely appendectomy have prevented preterm birth?

June 2004 · Vol. 16, No. 6
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<court>Undisclosed County (Calif)</court>

Symptoms of nausea, vomiting, and right lower quadrant abdominal pain prompted a woman at 28 weeks’ gestation to present to a medical center. Her white blood cell count (WBC) was 22,700. After preterm labor was ruled out, the woman was given analgesics and sent home.

The following day the woman returned to the hospital, noting the same symptoms plus diarrhea. Her WBC at this time was 23,500. When no contractions were detected, the woman was given additional pain medication and again discharged home.

Two days after her last visit, she once again presented to the hospital, this time noting sharp pains. An appendectomy was then scheduled with a general surgeon. By this time, however, labor had begun and could not be stopped. The woman delivered the child, who suffers from cerebral palsy and spastic quadriparesis.

The mother claimed that the defendant either misread or failed to assess her WBC and clinical presentation. She argued that a gener-al surgeon should have been consulted during 1 of her initial 2 visits. Had an appendectomy been performed at that time, she claimed, she had a 90% chance of carrying the child to term.

The defendant maintained the standard of care was met at all times.

  • The case settled for $2 million.

The cases in this column are selected by the editors of OBG Management from Medical Malpractice Verdicts, Settlements & Experts, with permission of the editor, Lewis Laska, of Nashville, Tenn. ( While there are instances when the available information is incomplete, these cases represent the types of clinical situations that typically result in litigation.

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