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Case #1071: Spinal Cord Injuries

$6.9 Million Spinal Cord Injury

On October 2, the Infant Plaintiff was born following a scheduled cesarean section. At that time, a vestigial tail (fatty deposit) was noted at the base of the spine. The following day, an MRI of the spine confirmed the additional presence of a tethered cord at the L5 junction. Accordingly, on October 4, the Infant uneventfully underwent removal of the vestigial tail with a plan to readmit him subsequently to lyse the tissue that was tethering his spinal cord. On November 7, the Infant was readmitted to the Defendant Hospital for the surgery due to neurologic signs of active tethering in the form of decreased urinary stream and lower extremity numbness and weakness. The surgery was again, uneventful and the Infant was discharged on November 11.

The infant’s neurologic signs returned in mid-January and on February 3, of the next year, an MRI indicated that a second de-tethering of the spinal cord was required. Accordingly, the Infant was readmitted on February 14, and underwent a second de-tethering surgery. The Plaintiffs alleged that the standards of care require the identification, isolation and protection of vital structures including the bottom of the spinal cord which is called the cauda equina (horse’s tail). The Plaintiffs alleged that during the course of surgery, these Defendants failed to identify, isolate and protect the cauda equina and partially transected it. The Defendant contended that the cauda equina was not surgically injured and that the Infant’s outcome was the natural result of his severe tethered cord condition.

Subsequent to the operative procedure, the Infant Plaintiff lost the function provided by the cauda equina and has been rendered a paraplegic as a result. He has no use of his legs, bladder, bowel; has lost normal male sexual function; has suffered bilateral hip dislocations; has suffered with a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the left knee; hyperextension of both knees; has required ongoing enemas and medications in an attempt to soften stool for digital removal; requires ongoing bladder catheterization due to the neurogenic bladder and has suffered frequent urinary tract ascending infections.

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