The 58-year-old plaintiff was taken to the OR where the defendant (a neurosurgeon) was to perform a “modified costotransversectomy” to decompress a T9-T10 right posterior central disc herniation that was causing myelopathic symptoms including numbness, tingling, burning, and some difficulty with balance and ambulation for the previous six months.
A “modified costotransversectomy” is a procedure in which the surgeon removes some or all of the rib and the transverse process so that the surgeon can take a lateral approach to a thoracic disc herniation to prevent the danger of iatrogenic injury to the spinal cord.
The neurosurgeon instead performed a dangerous posterior approach (i.e. posterior laminectomy) that had been forbidden for at least 60 years rather than a safer, planned, lateral/posterolateral approach. Due to the negligent surgical approach that the neurosurgeon chose, he injured the spinal cord (there was complete loss of neuromonitoring signals intraoperatively) and was unable to decompress the spinal cord by removing the central disc herniation.
In the PACU, the patient was unable to move or feel his legs. His condition did not improve postoperatively, and he ended up a functional paraplegic.
Postoperative MRI revealed acute cord signal change consistent with an intraoperative injury.
The defense experts all admitted that the neurosurgeon did not remove any rib or any of the transverse process but claimed that a surgeon could modify a procedure however he wanted, and that the neurosurgeon did not perform a posterior laminectomy as plaintiff’s experts stated, instead, he performed a posterolateral approach.
Tony Russell and Les Bowers of Michie Hamlett Attorneys at Law had to show to the jury that the neurosurgeon did not perform a “modified costotransversectomy” or posterolateral approach but performed the forbidden laminectomy approach.
Our Collaborative Approach
The Plaintiff’s two orthopedic spine surgeons testified that the neurosurgeon did not perform a “modified costotransversectomy” or any type of posterolateral or lateral approach, but that he instead performed the forbidden laminectomy approach. They explained with medical literature that a laminectomy approach was absolutely contraindicated for thoracic disc herniations because the approach does not permit the surgeon to be lateral enough to avoid hitting, retracting, or otherwise causing iatrogenic injury to the spinal cord.
Together we collaborated on a visual presentation that would show:
The visual presentation showed the neurosurgeon’s negligence in his chosen approach and the necessity for a lifetime of care for the plaintiff resulting in the jury awarding us the $4mm plus interest from the date of surgery (the total verdict was $5.5 million) for which we asked.
“MediVisuals illustrations powerfully demonstrated to the jury that the defendant neurosurgeon performed the forbidden laminectomy approach to access the disc thereby requiring manipulation of the cord which damaged it.”