Doctors have often been found negligent if they left a foreign object in a patient during an operation. In this malpractice case, however, the anesthesiologist claimed to have no knowledge or possession of any item found in the patient’s spine after surgery – and no one involved in the case knew how to get there.
It’s not uncommon for a retained foreign object to move a little after surgery, but some seem to be able to travel farther than others.
A man in his 60s went to hospital for a total knee replacement. The anesthetist Dr. A. had significant difficulty and made several attempts to place a needle for spinal anesthesia before consulting a colleague for help. Together they could place a needle with a straight-in approach.
The operation was completed with no further difficulty and no discernible anesthetic complications.
Two months later, Dr. A. That a foreign body was found in the patient’s lumbar spine after an MRI was ordered as part of a sciatica evaluation. Allegedly, the MRI was compared to spinal films from 3 years earlier that showed no foreign body. The patient was informed of the findings and Dr. A. discussed a subsequent CT report with him.
Six weeks later, the patient underwent lumbar surgery. The surgeon removed a 2.1 cm needle from the spinal canal L2-3, performed a fusion at this point, a posterior osteotomy, a partial reduction / decompression of the spondylolisthesis, a partial laminectomy, a bilateral foraminotomy and nerve root decompression, a pedicle screw fixation , Placement of bilateral rods and a bone graft.
After surgery, the patient reported relief from his preoperative pain symptoms, but complained of atrophy and weakness of the lower extremities. The patient did not return to work and was terminated from employment the following year.
The patient brought a lawsuit against Dr. A. claiming that she stuck a needle through his spinal canal and dura, which broke the needle and got stuck in his spine. The plaintiff further alleged that it was negligent not to detect a broken needle when removing the needle and introducer.
The legal dispute was initially conducted on the assumption that the foreign body removed during the lumbar operation was a needle fragment from the anesthesia of the knee operation. The spinal surgeon testified that he could not tell whether the patient’s pain was from the “needle” or from the patient’s existing spinal stenosis, but that the object must be removed in any case.
The discovery revealed that the plaintiff had urgently consulted a neurosurgeon 3 years earlier about severe leg pain, back pain, and a foot fall after moving paving stones during a home garden design. This neurosurgeon ordered flexion and extension films and had planned to recommend surgery in L2-3 or L4-5 depending on the film, but the patient never returned.