Diagnosis of severe cardiac failure missed by three GPs

07 August 2020

As a child, our client, who was now a young father of two, was diagnosed with a narrowing of one of the four valves in his heart; a condition known as aortic valve stenosis. Throughout his childhood and adolescence, he underwent regular follow-up appointments in the cardiology clinic.
Diagnosis of severe cardiac failure missed by three GPs

At the age of 19-years-old, he underwent surgery for aortic valve replacement with a porcine bioprosthetic valve (sometimes called a pig’s valve). He was told by the hospital doctor that his bioprosthetic valve would last around 10 to 15 years, before it would need to be replaced with a mechanical valve.

Around 12 years later, our client was walking his two young daughters to school, when he noticed he was having chest pains and shortness of breath.

He visited his GP because he was concerned that his valve needed replacing due to its expected lifespan of around 10 to 15 years and in light of his recent symptoms. Our client was reassured by his GP and advised that his symptoms were probably due to smoking. However, no record of any heart examination or advice regarding a follow-up appointment was made by the GP.

Shortly after this appointment, our client managed to give up smoking.

Around one month later, our client returned to his GP Surgery, where he was seen by a different GP. This time the GP recorded a very low heart rate and blood pressure measurement. Our client was reassured that his observations were normal. No further treatment was advised, or medication prescribed. The GP records also showed that the GP had dictated a letter referring our client to hospital for further investigations, however our client was not advised that a hospital appointment was being requested.

After this appointment, our client’s symptoms of chest pain and shortness of breath worsened.

Around five weeks later, a hospital appointment had not been received, and our client went back to his GP Surgery, where he was seen by a different, third, GP. Our client complained to the GP about his ongoing symptoms of chest pain and shortness of breath. He was again reassured and given the impression that his symptoms were down to stress and low mood.

Around two months later, our client woke up in the middle of the night unable to breathe with unbearable chest pain. He was also sweating to the point of his clothes being soaked. This episode lasted around two hours.

He went back to his GP surgery, where he was seen by yet another, different, GP. This time, however, an EEG test was carried out. The results of the EEG examination were so abnormal that the GP called an ambulance to take our client straight to hospital.

Our client was admitted to hospital, where he was diagnosed with severe cardiac failure caused by a severely narrowed bioprosthetic aortic valve.

He had also developed leaking of the mitral valve and an aneurysm of the aorta below the aortic valve. He was considered too ill to return home and underwent emergency aortic valve replacement and mitral valve repair.

A few weeks after surgery, our client was discharged home to begin a gradual recovery process. Unfortunately, our client had been affected both physically and psychologically by these events.

Our client sought legal advice and instructed Sumit Morjaria, a specialist solicitor in the medical negligence team at Shoosmiths, to pursue a claim against all three GPs, who had failed to refer him for further tests when he had seen them with symptoms of heart failure.

The claim was settled a few months before trial for a significant amount of compensation which, in addition to compensation for the pain and suffering caused, included compensation for costs of care and domestic assistance and psychiatric treatment required by our client. 



This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. © Shoosmiths LLP 2024

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