Bone gave way unexpectedly during back surgery – Defense Verdict

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//May 16, 2016

Bone gave way unexpectedly during back surgery – Defense Verdict

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//May 16, 2016

Plaintiff, a 51-year-old nurse with a history of back surgery, underwent sur­gery to fuse four vertebrae (L2-L5) using a minimally invasive technique known as eXtreme Lateral Interbody Fusion (XLIF). A preoperative DEXA scan con­firmed good bone quality to support a fusion. Surgery proceeded uneventfully at L4-5 and L3-4. However, when using a Cobb elevator to remove the disk at L2- 3, the vertebral body gave way, causing the instrument to slip anteriorly. Shortly thereafter, her blood pressure dropped and an injury to the great vessels was suspected. The patient coded and had to be resuscitated on the operative table. A vascular surgeon was called who re­paired a rent in the aorta but the patient required significant blood transfusions. Plaintiff proceeded to trial against the orthopedic surgery group, but not the surgeon and claimed she suffered an an­oxic brain injury, gait problems and an inability to return to work. At trial, the defense produced expert testimony that the injury was not foreseeable, particu­larly in light of the DEXA scan which re­vealed adequate bone quality. A defense radiologist reviewed postop images show­ing the location where the bone gave way, causing the instrument to slip leading to the injury and refuted the claim of anoxic brain injury. At trial, plaintiff withdrew her nearly $500,000 life care plan when her medical expert could not support the claimed damages on cross-examination. The jury deliberated for approximately 90 minutes before returning a defense verdict.


Type of action: Medical malpractice
Injuries alleged: Laceration to the aorta during spine surgery
Name of case: Confidential
Court: Richmond Circuit Court
Case no.: Confidential
Tried before: Jury
Name of judge or mediator: Hon. Melvin R. Hughes Jr.
Date resolved: Oct. 29, 2015
Special damages: $1,917,000.00 ($784,000.00 medicals; $650,000.00 lost wages; $483,000.00 life care plan)
Demand: $2,150,000.00 (policy limits)
Offer: None
Verdict or settlement: Defense verdict
Amount: $0
Attorneys for defendant: Ronald P. Herbert and Todd D. Anderson, Richmond
Plaintiff’s experts: Faheem Sandhu, MD (neuro­surgery); Robert Banco, MD (orthopedic surgery); Scott Raber, MD (radiology); Jeffrey Kreutzer, MD (neuropsychology); Betty Overbey, RN (life care plan); Albert Jones, MD (PM&R)
Insurance carrier: The Doctors Company


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