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Wilmington, North Carolina

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Jean Martin
Jean Martin
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What to expect after heart surgery? Not a drug-induced death or illness.

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Patients, and their families, who are facing heart surgery are usually given materials on what to expect after the surgery.  This list will state that complications may arise, including heart attack, stroke and kidney failure.  But patients are not warned that these complications may be the result of drugs used during the surgery rather than the surgery itself and, thus, could be prevented with the use of alternative medications.  Unfortunately for many heart surgery patients, and their families, they suffered these exact complications because of a drug known as Trasylol.

I routinely find during a review of medical records for a potential medical malpractice claim that the negligence came at the hands of a pharmaceutical company rather than a doctor. Increasingly I find myself explaining to a client that a drug is to blame, not the doctor.  Cases of heart surgery patients who suffered serious complications after the surgery are falling into that category more often.

Trasylol was a drug manufactured by Bayer that was used during heart surgery to control bleeding.  Since patients were under anesthesia at the time, they had no way to know that Trasylol was being used.  Perhaps their doctor told them prior to the surgery that medication would be used to control bleeding.  What doctors did not tell them was that the use of Trasylol doubled the risk of kidney failure and stroke and increased the risk of heart attack and heart failure by 55%!  One researcher has estimated that over 20,000 people may have died as a result of complications due to Trasylol before the drug was removed from the market in November 2007.

One study reviewed the charts of 10,000 patients who had undergone heart surgery at Duke University Medical Center from 1996 – 2005. Over 600 patients who had been given Trasylol died within 30 days of surgery, a rate that was 2 1/2 times greater than in patients given alternative medications or no medication at all to control bleeding.  To make matters even worse, the cost of Trasylol far exceeded the cost of alternative drugs.

If you or a loved one have suffered heart attack, stroke, kidney failure or death after undergoing heart surgery, you should inquire as to whether the drug Trasylol was used during the surgery.  If you seek the review of a medical malpractice attorney, make sure that attorney is reviewing the medication lists in the charts and is giving consideration to the complications having been the result of drugs used during the surgery rather than negligence on behalf of the doctor or surgeon.