Mistreatment of broken arm at the hospital...

by Sharon
(Sacramento, California)

My 85 year old mother-in-law fell and fractured two bones in her forearm. We took her to the emergency and they x-rayed the arm and found two fractures. I don't know if an orthopedic person was reached but several emergency room employees set the fracture.

They were told my mother-in-law takes no pain medication so they could properly medicate her to set the fractures. Fentanyl and ativan were given, and the fractures were "lined up". An x-ray was taken after the procedure and they said everything was fine. The fractures were all lined up and I was told the meds would wear off in about 2 hours. I was unable to even slightly wake her after 4 or so hours and called the charge nurse.

During this wait I overheard the nursing staff at shift change indicate my mom was overly medicated and still sleeping. I requested the charge nurse do something. Mom was given injections and eventually woke up.

We were told to follow up with an orthopedic doctor in 5 days. Her arm was x-rayed again and the x-ray clearly showed the arm was still fractured and she needed surgery.

Now, my question is: What can be done about the unnecessary surgery and the medication she was given that could have been fatal to an 85 year old woman with no history of taking pain medications? Is this medical malpractice or at the very least negligence?

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Mistreatment of broken arm at the hospital...":

Sharon (Sacramento, California):

The case you present is complicated. The first set of x-rays showed your mother fractured two bones in her forearm... 5 days after the surgery the bones still appeared fractured.

Surgery indicates your mother’s forearm was cut open to line up the fractures. It is hard to understand why a hospital and its emergency room staff would cut open your mother’s forearm to align the fractures. Normally fractures are set either in a caste or a sling of some sort. Fractures aren’t “aligned”. Bones which come out of their sockets or which are moved away from their normal position are aligned.

Fractures in the healthiest of young people take weeks to heal. You seem to be concerned because the fractures still appeared after 5 days. Your mother is 85 years old. She was medicated with one of the strongest pain medications available. It is understandable that your mother awoke after a longer time than you believe she should have.

Calculating when a person will be fully awake and lucid after receiving opiates and benzoids is difficult. Different people take different amounts of time to respond. The point is your mother did respond, and apparently did so without further complications.

From the facts you present it appears you really don’t have much of a case against the hospital or its emergency room staff. We hope your mother is feeling better and that her bones are continuing to slowly heal.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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