Sommers Schwartz attorney Kenneth Watkins secured a $2 million neurosurgical malpractice settlement on behalf of a woman who, upon awakening from thoracic spine surgery, was paralyzed from the chest down.
The 62-year-old plaintiff suffered from persistent back and leg pain. She saw the defendant-neurosurgeon twice, and neither time did the doctor recommend physical therapy or lumbar spine surgery to alleviate her discomfort. Instead, he recommended thoracic spine surgery, a riskier procedure.
During the operation, a cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leak occurred, most likely caused when the defendant tore the dura with a surgical instrument, but which was never detected during the procedure. Upon awakening after surgery, the plaintiff was paraplegic.
An immediate postoperative MRI revealed a ventral disc bulge causing posterior deviation of the spinal cord, as well as other new developments. The CSF leak, however, was still not detected. The plaintiff was transferred to the ICU, monitored, and given steroids, but with no improvement. Another MRI performed one week later noted CSF, but its significance was again missed, and the leak persisted, causing effacement of the thecal sac and cord compression.
The plaintiff was subsequently transferred to a rehabilitation facility, where she was diagnosed with pseudo meningocele – an extradural collection of CSF that typically results from an inadvertent meningeal tear or inadequate closure during spinal surgery.
The plaintiff, who had led an active lifestyle, is now sedentary and requires lifetime care. She does not have normal bladder or bowel function and is susceptible to deep venous thrombosis (DVT), infections, and decubitus ulcers.