Wrong Site Spinal Surgery Creates Medical Mishaps in Patients

There are some medical malpractice cases that should never have happened. This is one of them.

This reported case is completely egregious and the unfortunate victim went through way too much because of this doctor’s medical negligence. Imagine a surgeon not double checking what needed to be taken out before they performed spinal surgery.

The jury in this case was astounded that the doctor did not take the extra care needed to ensure the patient got the surgery he came to the hospital for in the first place. Instead, the plaintiff awoke to find out that the surgeon had removed the wrong spinal disc. The surgeon had failed to sign, mark, X-ray and verify what needed to be done on which vertebrae. The Texas jury felt the doctor was in the wrong and awarded the plaintiff $134,000.

Shockingly, operating on the wrong level of the spine is far more common than you would think. In fact, spine surgeons have the second highest number of medical malpractice cases, coming up close to OB/GYN doctors. In this case, the plaintiff filed a medical negligence lawsuit stating that his surgeon went ahead and removed the thoracic spinal disc above the T6-T7 disc that he was not supposed to remove. On discovering the error, the surgeon did not charge the plaintiff for the first surgery and also reduced the bill for his second surgery on the right disc.

This is the right thing to do, but what do you do when someone you trust does something so totally wrong that it causes you pain and suffering, lost wages, mental anguish, loss of consortium, loss of household services, and extra costs associated with the second surgery? You file a lawsuit, because someone had to take responsibility for the error and the ensuing damage.

Frankly, it was also likely that the plaintiff filed his lawsuit because of the reasons the doctor cited for making the mistake, and those were that the man was 6 feet 2 inches tall, and so the MRI was not clear and the herniation on the right disc was hidden from the surgeon’s view.

If you stop to think about those reasons for a moment, you will likely come to the same conclusion that the court did – that the surgeon was negligent and looking to point a finger at anyone else but at him. It does not take much effort to figure out that if the imaging film is not clear, you do not proceed until you get a clear one, or that if a disc was hidden from the doctor’s view, then you find a way to make that view clear enough to do the right surgery. As for the height of the patient, the surgeon knew that before operating, and should have taken the extra care needed. He unfortunately did not.

It is good to know though, that there are now several programs in the United States to prevent wrong-site surgery. One is called SMaX, short for “Sign, Mark, and X-ray” program. It marks the exact site for a spinal surgery with a radio opaque indicator and uses a checklist for patient and procedure verification.