In Part Two of “Maryland Medical Malpractice Defense Verdict For Spine Surgeon,” we ended our discussion at the point where the 5-week post-surgical cervical MRI was read by the hospital radiologist as showing that the cord appearance and the amount of stenosis “appears essentially unchanged from the prior preoperative MRI,” which the defendants and their experts vehemently denied.
The Underlying Facts
Prior to the plaintiff’s ACDF and cervical decompression surgery in late June 2010 that was performed by the defendant spine surgeon, the strength in the plaintiff’s lower extremities (legs) were determined to be normal, along with normal range of motion. Within weeks of the cervical surgery, the plaintiff was suffering from spasms in his right quadriceps (thigh) that the plaintiff described as new-onset but the defendants argued were similar to spasms the plaintiff reported in the past. Nonetheless, the plaintiff’s spasms worsened and extended throughout his right leg and into his left leg over time, accompanied by an increasing amount of pain.
The defendant spine surgeon performed lumbar surgery on the plaintiff during mid-August 2010, to relieve the plaintiff’s spasms (the plaintiff alleged that the defendant spine surgeon told him that the lumbar surgery would “absolutely” take care of his spasms, in response to the plaintiff’s confirmatory questioning just before he was provided anesthesia for the surgery, and that he would not have permitted the defendant spine surgeon to operate on his lumbar spine if the defendant had not represented that the surgery would “absolutely take care of ” his very painful spasms; the defendant spine surgeon denied making any guarantee that the lumbar surgery would fully resolve the plaintiff’s spasms — hence, the plaintiffs alleged the lack of informed consent for the mid-August 2010 lumbar surgery as well as the lack of informed consent for the late-June 2010 cervical surgery (the plaintiffs alleged that the defendant spine surgeon did not obtain proper informed consent for the cervical surgery because the defendant stated to the plaintiff that he required “emergency surgery” or else he “would be paralyzed for life,” which the defendant spine surgeon denied telling the plaintiff, and all experts at trial, and even the defendant himself, stated was not “emergency surgery” and that it would have been inappropriate for the defendant to have told the plaintiff that he needed emergency surgery or he would be paralyzed for life)).
After the lumbar surgery, the plaintiff did not get better — his condition deteriorated and worsened. He was diagnosed with spasticity in his legs along with painful contractures, resulting in the plaintiff being unable to straighten his legs and therefore unable to walk. The plaintiff described at trial the painful spasms that he suffers in his legs, which start as a waive beginning in his feet and progress up to his hips. The spasms are extremely painful, occur without warning, and happen many times every hour, around the clock. When the spasms occur, they are so painful that the plaintiff’s left hand is physically deformed due to his clenching his left hand when he has spasms, according to the plaintiff’s trial testimony. The plaintiff testified that he has been in a wheelchair since November 2010, and that he is permanently disabled (he has not returned to work since mid-June 2010).
The plaintiff had two cervical revision surgeries performed by a Baltimore neurosurgeon during July 2011, at which time the plate and screws that the defendant spine surgeon had placed were removed and the two levels that the defendant had operated on were revised (as well as adjacent levels). The same neurosurgeon operated on the plaintiff’s lumbar spine in January 2012, at the same levels addressed by the defendant spine surgeon (and at additional levels). Those surgeries permanently resolved the plaintiff’s complaints of back pain and other pain and the feeling of a disconnection between his upper and lower body, which had returned, but the plaintiff’s extremely painful and debilitating spasms have not gotten better and he cannot straighten his legs, allegedly due to the failure to timely and properly decompress his cervical spine in June 2010 and thereafter (which the defendants denied).
The defendant and his experts testified during trial that the plaintiff’s condition is unfortunate, but was not the result of medical negligence. They pointed to the plaintiff’s diagnosis of arachnoiditis following the lumbar surgery that they contend was not caused by medical negligence, as well as the plaintiff’s myelomalacia, which they contend was not caused or worsened by the defendants.
The Maryland medical malpractice jury deliberated for four hours and forty minutes, during which time raised voices could be discerned coming from the jury room. The jury rendered its verdict at 8:40 pm on November 13, 2014, finding that the defendants were not negligent and that there was not a lack of informed consent for either spine surgery performed by the defendant.
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