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Patient undergoes spinal surgery, wakes up quadriplegic.

Byline: Mass. Lawyers Weekly Staff

The plaintiff was a 66-year-old quadriplegic residing in a 24-hour skilled nursing facility. He had a wife and a minor son.<br />The plaintiff had a spine condition known as ossification of the posterior longitudinal ligament, or OPLL, which causes severe cervical stenosis and impingement of the spinal cord. He had chronic tingling in his toes and difficulty controlling his legs, causing him to trip over things. He also had intermittent tingling in both forearms and hands with deterioration in the quality of his handwriting.<br />The plaintiff presented to the defendant orthopedic surgeon on Oct. 22, 2012, and underwent a very lengthy operation consisting of C4-C5 corpectomy, and C3-C4 and C5-C6 discectomy via an anterior approach. The defendant caused a small dural tear with subsequent laceration of the arachnoid, resulting in a leak of cerebrospinal fluid. Neuromonitoring signals were lost.<br />When the plaintiff awoke post-operatively, he was unable to move his upper and lower bilateral extremities. A CT scan of the cervical spine revealed a bone fragment in the left spinal canal posterior to the C3 vertebral body noted to be impinging upon the spinal cord. An MRI revealed hemorrhagic contusion on the left side of the plaintiff's spine at the C4 level. The study also revealed multifocal cord signal abnormality from the levels of C4 through C6.<br />Post-operative X-rays showed anatomic alignment of the post-operative surgical spine. However, the plaintiff's ability to move was limited to inconsistent episodes of wiggling his big toes on both feet. He remained in a quadriplegic state and his condition was expected to be permanent.<br />The plaintiff claimed his spinal cord was subjected to repeat trauma during the anterior approach, as evidenced by the evolving contusions and hemorrhage found on his post-operative MRI. The plaintiff alleged the defendant should have performed the surgery using a posterior approach, or should have referred the plaintiff to a specialist with more experience with OPLL.<br />The defendant denied liability and contended that he complied with the standard of care. He further contended that the plaintiff's long history of spinal problems was the cause of the quadriplegia, and/or that it was a risk of the procedure.<br />The case settled shortly before trial for $1.995 million.<br />Action: Medical malpractice<br />Injuries alleged: Quadriplegia<br />Case name: Withheld<br />Court/case no.: Withheld<br />Jury and/or judge: N/A (settled)<br />Amount: $1.99 million<br />Date: February 2017<br />Attorneys: Andrew C. Meyer Jr. and William J. Thompson, of Lubin & Meyer, Boston (for the plaintiff)

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Title Annotation:Massachusetts
Publication:Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly
Date:Jul 26, 2018
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