Cubital Tunnel Cut Nerve Lawsuit Against Sinai in Baltimore

Jones v. Sinai Hospital of Baltimore, Inc.

bed sore lawsuit injuriesThis surgical malpractice lawsuit was filed against Sinai Hospital in Baltimore City on August 18, 2017. It is the 186th medical malpractice case filed in Maryland in 2017. The plaintiff alleges that during cubital tunnel release surgery, the surgeon sliced through his ulnar nerve and then failed to inform him until more than six months after the surgery.

Summary of Plaintiff's Allegations

Plaintiff goes to his primary care provider with mild weakness and numbness in his hands. He is referred to a neurosurgeon. The neurosurgeon performs electrodiagnostic testing, which reveals mild bilateral ulnar neuropathies in his elbows. The man is then referred to the Rubin Institute for Advance Orthopedics at Sinai Hospital.

When he goes to the center at Sinai Hospital, he is evaluated by a hip/knee replacement surgeon and general orthopedic surgeon. Cubital tunnel release surgery is recommended and performed. During the procedure, the surgeon slices through his ulnar nerve. The ulnar nerve is one of the three major nerves, along with the median and radial nerves, that end in the hand. The doctor attempts to repair it with a suture, but does not tell the plaintiff what has happened.

During a follow-up visit a week later, the plaintiff tells the surgeon he has pain and decreased sensation. The doctor gives him a prescription Oxycodone but does not tell him that he sliced the nerve during surgery.

When he returns for his ten-week post-op visit, the man still has pain and numbness. The doctor indicates that they should wait six more weeks before nerve testing. Despite this, the plaintiff is still not informed of the surgical mistake. A month later he is finally referred to a specialist in upper extremity surgery at Lifebridge Health Center for Hand and Upper Extremity Surgery.

After reviewing the surgical reports, the specialist finds that the ulnar nerve was cut during surgery. Six months after the procedure, it is the first time that the plaintiff is told of this. Additional studies are done that reveal a severe right ulnar neuropathy and partial denervation of his elbow, the site of surgery. He undergoes a second surgery in an attempt to repair the first surgery. The plaintiff still needs pain medications and is on disability. Plaintiff's lawsuit contends that the doctor cut the nerve and tried to cover it up.

Additional Comments
  • The ulnar nerve lies along the inner side of the elbow. The ulnar nerve provides the electrical or nerve function to most of the small muscles of the hand. When you hit your elbow hard, you can get an electrical shooting sensation that goes into your ring finger and little finger, which is what people call the funny bone.
  • If there was a cover-up in the doctor failing to tell the patient that the ulnar nerve was cut, the cover-up may be bigger than the crime. It may be that the harm may have been more than just a failed attempt to avoid a medical malpractice lawsuit. The delay in getting the second surgery could have caused the patient harm. The defense experts will have to agree that a nerve laceration is very easier to fix if identified immediately. You may not get 100% when cutting an adult's nerve but you might get close. But that a repair becomes more difficult as time passes and scar tissue develops. At some point - long before the six months that passed -- the nerve will bead over making it harder for the second surgery because of the risk of reinjuring the nerve.
  • The defendants may argue that his real problem is not in the patient's ulnar nerve was compromised which required the surgery in the first place. But if the patient had nerve function prior to the cubital tunnel surgery and then immediately after the surgery the nerve was completely non-functional, that is going to be a hard argument.
  • The loss of the ulnar nerve would be a blow for anyone. This patient was in the home improvement business where obviously hand strength is a must. When the ulnar nerve is cut, some muscles of the hand will appear withered and the patient will lose strength. So there is real functional loss. Sensation is lost to the ring and little fingers. The paralysis of the small muscles of the hand make tasks such adjuster a zipper or buttoning your shirt a challenge.
Jurisdiction
  • Baltimore City
Defendants
  • Sinai Hospital
  • LifeBridge Health Center
Hospitals Where Patient was Treated
  • Sinai Hospital
Negligence
  • Failure to provide plaintiff with an appropriate upper extremity specialist at time of initial evaluation and first surgery
  • Failure to protect plaintiff's right ulnar nerve from injury
  • Cutting the nerve during the surgery
  • Failure to advise plaintiff after the surgery that his ulnar nerve had been cut
  • Failure to promptly refer plaintiff to a specialist in upper extremity surgery and microvascular repair
Specific Counts Pled
  • Professional Negligence
Plaintiff's Experts and Areas of Specialty
  • None at this time
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