In our blog posting on November 15, 2014, we began discussing the Maryland medical malpractice verdict in favor of the defendant spine surgeon and his orthopedic practice that was reached by a six-person Maryland medical malpractice jury on November 13, 2014 on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, after seven full days of trial and nearly five hours of jury deliberations. We begin today’s blog posting where we left off.
The Underlying Facts
After being admitted to the surgical floor of a local hospital by the defendant spine surgeon for what the plaintiffs testified was supposed to be “emergency surgery” on the plaintiff’s cervical spine to keep him from “becoming paralyzed for the rest of his life,” the plaintiff waited for his paralysis-avoiding surgery. He expected to be brought to the operating room for surgery on the night of admission; he continued to remain NPO (nothing by mouth – no food, no liquids) since admission.
The plaintiff’s medical records indicate that he was examined by multiple physicians (a neurologist, a neurosurgeon, and others) in consultation with the defendant spine surgeon during the evening of his admission to the hospital and on the following day. The plaintiffs testified during trial that they recalled various doctors entering the plaintiff’ hospital room but that the doctors did not examine the plaintiff and the doctor who seemed to be leading the other doctors told the plaintiff that the defendant spine surgeon was one of the best. The plaintiff had various MRIs performed on the day of admission and on the following day. The plaintiffs testified that they continued to wait for the ’emergency surgery” that they expected to take place at any time.
The day following admission, the plaintiff had a cervical CT scan. During the early afternoon on the second day after his admission to the surgical floor of the hospital (the plaintiff had remained NPO the entire time), the plaintiff was finally brought to the operating room, where the defendant spine surgeon and his assistant (another spine surgeon from the defendant orthopedic practice) performed a two-level ACDF (anterior cervical discectomy and fusion) and cervical decompression.
The plaintiff had some initial improvement following his spine surgery, including relief from his pre-surgery feeling of a disconnection between the upper portion of his body and his lower body, but his condition soon began deteriorating, including the return of spasms in his right thigh and other distressing symptoms. The plaintiff began experiencing problems walking (he had ambulatory problems that began shortly before his cervical surgery but he was able to continue to work as an equipment operator at a power plant until mid-June).
Five weeks after the ACDF was performed, the defendant spine surgeon ordered a cervical MRI, to be compared to the plaintiff’s pre-surgical cervical MRI. The radiologist who read and interpreted the 5-week post-op cervical MRI, comparing that MRI to the cervical MRI performed the day prior to the plaintiff’s cervical surgery during June 2010, wrote in his report, “Postsurgical change. Cord appearance and the amount of stenosis appears essentially unchanged from the prior preoperative MRI.”
The radiologist’s report and findings were a major source of contentious disagreement between the plaintiffs and the defendants during trial. While the plaintiffs pointed to the report as evidence that the defendant spine surgeon failed to perform an adequate cervical decompression during the surgery in June, each of the defendants’ experts who testified during trial (a radiologist, a neuroradiologist, a neurologist, and an orthopedic surgeon), as well as the defendant spine surgeon himself, testified that the radiologist who read the postsurgical cervical MRI was wrong, and that the MRI did not show any cord compression or significant stenosis. They also testified that the plaintiff did not have symptoms that would have been expected if there had been an inadequate cervical decompression.
We will continue describing this recent Maryland medical malpractice trial in tomorrow’s blog posting …
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