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Pseudotumor Cerebri Malpractice Lawsuit Filed Over Blindness from Delayed Treatment

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According to allegations raised in a medical malpractice lawsuit recently filed in Kansas federal court, due to a failure to properly treat a case of pseudotumor cerebri (PTC) caused a Denver woman to experienced a continued increase of fluid pressure on her brain, resulting in permanent blindness. 

The complaint (PDF) was filed by Jenoise Callahan on May 13, naming Dr. Scott Bledsoe and Wesley Medical Center as defendants.

Callahan indicates that she went to the Wesley emergency room on May 15, 2014, complaining of severe headaches and some vision loss. She had previously been diagnosed with pseudotumor cerebri (PTC), a medical condition also referred to as idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH), which occurs when cerebrospinal fluid levels become elevated, and is known to cause symptoms similar to what Callahan reported experiencing.

The lawsuit indicates that Dr. Bledsoe examined Callahan and determined that her problems did not require treatment, giving her a prescription for Diamox and Lasix. She was then released from the hospital, but neither her vision problems or headaches abated.

Two days later, Callahan’s PTC symptoms had worsened, and she began to suffer blindness and increased pain. She was again admitted to the emergency room at Wesley Medical Center on May 17, at which time an MRI was conducted and she underwent a lumbar puncture. These procedures confirmed she was suffering from elevated spinal fluid pressure. A neurosurgeon conducted an emergency right frontal ventriculoperitoneal shunt placement procedure to relieve the pressure, but due to the delayed treatment, Callahan indicates that she has suffered permanent damage to her optic nerve, causing blindness that is now irreversible.

Pseudotumor cerebri (PTC) or idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH) cause increased pressure in the skull, acting like a tumor. This commonly results in swelling of the optic nerve and optic disks, producing severe migraines, double vision, and other vision loss symptoms. While treatment can relieve the pressure, if damage is suffered to the optic nerve, it is often permanent and cannot be reverse. Therefore, prompt treatment is crucial when fluid pressure is elevated, according to the complaint.

The psuedotumor cerebri malpractice lawsuit indicates that the first time Callahan went to the Wesley Medical Center and was seen by Bledsoe, she was presenting symptoms that called for a decrease in intracranial pressure. However, Bledsoe failed to diagnose the danger and provide the proper treatment.

“Plaintiff Jenny Callahan’s permanent loss of vision/blindness was caused or contributed to be caused by the failure to decrease her intracranial pressure and cerebral spinal fluid pressure through a lumbar puncture/spinal tap while she was a patient of the emergency department of defendent Wesley during the afternoon of May 15, 2014, and the failure to decrease her cerebral spinal fluid pressure and her intracranial pressure through the placement of a shunt,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit accuses Blesoe and Wesley staff of failing to provide proper medical care, resulting in permanent injury.

Pseudotumor Cerebri Cases

The lawsuit does not indicate what caused Callahan’s PTC/IIH, however, the condition has been linked to a number of drugs and medical devices, most notably the progestin levonorgestrel.

In recent months, a growing number of pseudotumor cerebri lawsuits have been filed against the makers of the Mirena IUD, which is a long-acting birth control implant that releases levonorgestrel. According to allegations raised in those complaints, the manufacturer failed to adequately warn about the potential link between Mirena and pseudotumor cerebri, preventing users and medical providers from promptly recognizing and diagnosing the cause of severe headaches and vision problems that occurred among some users.

In several other places around the world, including South Africa and Hong Kong, Mirena IUD warnings include information about the risk of papilledema, which is the medical term to describe optic disc swelling that is caused by increased intracranial pressure. However, women in America or the U.S. medical community have not been provided the same information.

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