Proving The Dire Effect of Anemia and Its Treatment

Just like every medical condition, a physician treating a patient for anemia has a duty of care to ensure that the treatment doesn’t cause other complications.
Anemia
Photo by ANIRUDH on Unsplash

The average human can’t live long without oxygen. This shows how important it is to the proper functioning of the organs of the body. Oxygen, amongst other functions, is needed to keep brain cells alive, turn food into energy, and feed the cells of the immune system. Hence, oxygen needs to be adequately supplied to every body part. The red blood cells are charged with carrying oxygen from the lungs to other parts of the body. All things being equal, the red blood cells perform this function efficiently. However, there are conditions where the red blood cells aren’t healthy enough to carry oxygen to other parts of the body, causing weakness, shortness of breath, headaches, etc., which are all symptoms of anemia.

What Is Anemia?

Anemia is a condition where there’s a low amount of red blood cells present in the body system, hence affecting their primary function of carrying oxygen to other organs of the body. Simply put, it means low oxygen carrying capacity. 

The absence of enough red blood cells in the human body system causes this condition because the red blood cells contain a red protein called hemoglobin, whose primary function is to help transport oxygen from the lungs to tissues and other organs.

According to the WHO, anemia is a severe global public health problem. It was estimated that it affects 42% of children under five and 40% of pregnant women worldwide. The National Center for Health Statistics, in a publication, also provided data to support this fact, stating that, in the United States, over 890,000 patients visit the emergency departments with anemia as the primary diagnosis.

When an individual develops anemia, they are referred to as being anemic.

Symptoms of Anemia

Having explained what anemia is, its symptoms shouldn’t be far-fetched. 

An individual who lacks oxygen supply to the brain will have symptoms like dizziness, loss of consciousness, headaches, etc. A person whose body has refused to convert food into energy due to a lack of oxygen will experience weakness. Low oxygen supply to the heart can also cause chest pain, irregular heartbeat, etc. 

These are all the symptoms of anemia. Anemic patients can also show signs such as cold feet, hands, and pale skin.

Types of Anemia

There are various types of anemia, and their cause defines them. Anemia, a lack of enough red blood cells, can be caused due to the body’s inability to produce red blood cells adequately and replace lost red blood cells. It can also be caused by the destruction of red blood cells.

Below are two of the most common types of anemia:

  • Iron-deficiency anemia: This is the most common type of anemia. Hemoglobin, which is responsible for carrying oxygen to other parts of the body, is an iron-rich protein. 

Hence, when it’s short of iron, it can lead to this type of anemia. Iron deficiency can result from pregnancy, a low iron diet, persistent blood loss, blood-related genetic abnormalities, etc.

  • Aplastic anemia: The formation and production of red blood cells occur in the bone marrow. However, when the stem cells in the bone marrow fail to produce red blood cells needed by the body, this condition is referred to as aplastic anemia. Aplastic anemia can be chemotherapy-induced. It can also be caused by pregnancy or the use of certain drugs.

This was the case in Stottlemire v. Cawood, where the plaintiff claimed that a drug called chloromycetin, which has the risk of causing aplastic anemia, was the probable cause of the death of a child caused by deficiency of the bone marrow.

Anemia
Photo by ANIRUDH on Unsplash

Can The Treatment of These Types Of Anemia Have An Adverse Effect?

Qualified physicians who diagnose amenia in a patient can go ahead to recommend possible treatments depending on the severity of the condition. They could suggest iron supplement intakes, medications, and red blood cell transfusion, amongst other solutions. 

However, just like every form of treatment, predominantly medication, the physician has to bear in mind the risk of using such an approach to avoid putting the patient at risk of other health complications. An example of such a case is that of Condra v. Atlanta Orthopaedic Group.

In the case mentioned above, the plaintiff sought back, neck, and arm pain treatment from an orthopedist, who then prescribed a drug called Tegretol. After using the medication as prescribed by the physician, she started experiencing cramping and shortness of breath. She was later hospitalized and diagnosed with aplastic anemia. The plaintiff then sued, claiming that the orthopedist and his group had been negligent as they failed to monitor her blood count during the period she was on Tegretol to detect irregularity and adverse reactions.

Using Medical Animation To Illustrate The Effect Of Drugs In An Anemic Patient.

Just like the abovementioned cases, using certain medications to treat any type of anemia can have adverse effects. This negative effect may not be visible until they become chronic.

In the case of  Condra v. Atlanta Orthopaedic Group mentioned above, the plaintiff had a 30-day regimen of Tegretol, followed by another 30-day regimen when her condition had not improved. Her anemia wasn’t noticed until after the regimen. 

In a case with similar circumstances, medical animation can come to the rescue. It can be used to illustrate how the continuous intake of this drug attacks the red blood cells and the bone marrow, which is responsible for its reproduction. 

It can also be used to illustrate how the lack of healthy red blood cells stops the flow of oxygen to the organs of the body where it is needed, causing symptoms such as shortness of breath, dizziness, chest pain, etc.

However, using medical animation in an anemia-related case isn’t limited to showing the adverse effects of drugs. It can also be used to illustrate how the use of certain medications could have prevented anemic death.

In the case of Culler v. DIBNER, the defendant diagnosed a patient with a strange constellation of symptoms that were consistent with the presence of macrocytic anemia. The plaintiff planned to start B12 supplementation, followed by B12 correction, and to give folic acid to treat this condition, but it was never implemented.

In a case with similar circumstances, as stated above, medical animation can be used to illustrate how the intake of the supplements could have helped tackle her macrocytic anemia. 

Conclusion

Medical animation is a visual legal strategy with flexibility and fluidity. It can be used by whichever side of the legal team to illustrate the facts of the case as well as the technical opinion of an expert witness. 
However, in using them, an attorney must see that the animation is created in conformity with the rule of admissible evidence. A medical animation company with a history of creating admissible graphics should be contacted to carry out this illustration.

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