Visitor Question

After x-rays and examination, ER doctor stitched me up with glass still in my hand…

Submitted By: Jared (New Hampshire)

On black Friday I cut my hand on a glass pretty bad. I went to the emergency room, got x-rays and the doctor stitched me up. After stitching he said something on the order of, “How did those x-rays turn out?” I just kind of looked at him funny. He went over and looked at them, then came back and finished up.

I did not go back for a wound check and took the stitches out myself 10 days after (no health insurance). I am pretty sure there is still glass in my wound or maybe just scar tissue, but it feels kind of hard and I get sharp feelings when I roll my finger over the scar. I was recently at my primary care doctor for the flu (I’m better now) and he said if there is glass in there it should work its way out.

As far as the ER doctor goes. In the little research I did it seems glass only shows up on some x-rays? Just the shading, you can’t tell it is glass, just something. My primary care said it might not show up.

So…

A) Why would they take an x-ray if the glass indeed does not show up?

B) Is it malpractice if the ER doctor left glass in my wound? Remember he stitched me before looking at the x-ray.

I just really need to know because $500 in medical bills with no insurance is awful for four stitches. If he left glass in me I don’t feel I should have to pay anything. Thanks.

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.

Answer

Dear Jared,

Let’s try to answer your questions one at a time…

A.

The emergency room physician probably ordered x-rays as standard operating procedure for your injury. His asking you “How did those x-rays turn out?” was apparently rhetorical, especially because immediately after asking the question he went over and reviewed your x-rays. If he had ordered the x-rays and thereafter failed to review them you might have some legitimate concern.

You are correct when you say all glass doesn’t show up in x-rays. Large pieces of glass though, often do show up. Although it is impossible to speculate what the physician saw when he reviewed your x-rays, it is plausible to believe he didn’t see enough, if any, glass to support surgery or other invasive procedure.

B.

After reviewing your x-rays the physician apparently decided there wasn’t enough evidence of glass to pose a health problem. At that point he had a couple of choices: he could have ordered a cat scan or surgery to probe deeper into your hand, or “patch” you up and send you on your way. He apparently decided the latter. His decision doesn’t appear to have been an unreasonable one under the circumstances.

If, in the near future you learn the physician missed the existence of sufficient glass to have ordered surgery, AND that glass posed a serious threat to your health, you might have the basis of malpractice.

You would be best served by returning to the emergency room or your personal physician to follow up on the earlier diagnosis. Regardless of your financial problems you have a duty to mitigate your damages, if any. In other words, if you continue to have concern over the sharp feeling in your hand and do nothing about it, you can’t later claim malpractice.

Hopefully the physician’s diagnosis was correct.

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

Best of luck,

Published: December 14, 2012

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