Spinal Cord Surgery Injury Settlement Is $2 Million

2010 Medical Malpractice Trial Report

Medical malpractice lawsuit involving injury to the spinal cord during disc surgery leaves patient with very limited use of left side of body

On 2/17/05, the plaintiff had an MRI scan of her neck because of neck pain and arm numbness. The MRI showed a large disc herniation at left C4 – C5 causing impingement of the left C5 nerve root.

On 5/5/05, the plaintiff underwent disc surgery by the defendant surgeon. During the surgery, a cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leak was noted by the defendant. Upon inspection of the spinal cord, it showed that there was a small linear tear in the dura (the sheath that covers and protects the spinal cord) measuring 2-3mm in length. The defendant repaired the tear and completed the surgery.

Following surgery, the plaintiff was brought to the Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) and immediately the nurses caring for the plaintiff noted that she was unable to move her left arm, her left leg, or grasp with her left hand. The plaintiff was taken for a MRI of her spine and it showed spinal cord swelling at the level of the surgery. The following day, the defendant wrote a note indicating that the plaintiff had a presumed injury to her spinal cord in the course of her surgery. The defendant further noted that although he could not pinpoint the specific cause for injury, the most likely candidate would be contusion of the spinal cord during introduction of the dilator into her back at the beginning of the surgery.

One week after the surgery, the plaintiff was transferred to a rehabilitation hospital. At the time of transfer, the plaintiff had some flicker of movements of her left index finger and left thumb, some movement of her left hand, and a flicker of contraction involving the biceps and triceps. She has seen no significant improvement in her condition since the time of the injury. She continues to have very limit use of left side of her body. She requires a wheelchair to move around and deals with constant pain throughout her body.

The plaintiff expected to present expert medical testimony that defendant was negligent during the surgery of the plaintiff in failing to ensure that the dura/spinal cord were not injured. The plaintiff was prepared to present testimony that injury to the spinal cord would not occur if the defendant had taken proper safeguards during the surgery.

The defendant acknowledged that he most likely caused the injury with an instrument during the surgery but he was expected to present expert medical testimony that spinal cord injury was a risk of this procedure and not necessarily negligence on the part of the defendant.

The case settled after discovery for $2,000,000. The amount of the settlement was the full extent of the defendant’s insurance coverage.

Lubin & Meyer attorneys represented the plaintiff in this surgical neglience lawsuit.

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