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Negligent Spinal Cord Stimulator Implant Lawsuit

Earley v. Monocacy Surgery Center

Spinal Cord Stimulation ImplantThis medical malpractice claim was filed in Frederick County alleging that a spinal cord stimulator was unnecessarily and negligently implanted in a man's spine, causing permanent leg paralysis. It was filed in Health Claims Arbitration on February 20, 2018, and it is the 83rd medical malpractice case filed in Maryland this year.

Summary of Plaintiff's Allegations

A 64-year-old man presented to the Monocacy Surgery Center for a spinal cord stimulator (SCS) placement in an attempt to curb his severe back pain. The man had already been evaluated and treated by a doctor at Pain and Spine Specialists of Maryland. 

The doctor did a trial with a percutaneous spine stimulator and then referred him for a permanent implant. Unfortunately, the doctor's recommendation was negligent and the man was not actually a good candidate for a spinal cord stimulation implant.

After the implantation, the man experienced unbearable postoperative pain. He spoke with the on-call orthopedist, who suggested that he take additional medication. The orthopedist should have been more concerned and advised him to go to the hospital for an MRI.

Still in pain several days later, the man went to Frederick Memorial Hospital. He was able to walk, but he was developing a progressive loss of sensation and function in his legs. Hospital staff determined that the man was suffering from an epidural hematoma in the thoracic area of his spine, right where the SCS had been placed. A hematoma (a collection of blood) is a rare complication of implantation, which can be indicative of poor surgical technique.

Plaintiff filed a lawsuit arguing that the hematoma that was compressing his spinal cord went undetected after surgery. Due to both negligent surgery and delayed diagnosis, an injury that could have cured has become permanent. This man is now essentially a paraplegic with no bowel or bladder control and a severe loss of sensation from his chest down.

Additional Comments
  • A spinal cord stimulation (SCS) implant delivers a constant low-voltage electrical current to the spinal cord to block the sensation of chronic pain. Patients considering SCS must meet certain criteria, including a minimum of six months of poor response to more conservative treatment options.

  • A spinal epidural hematoma is a collection of blood in the epidural space of the spinal column that causes spinal cord compression

  • According to the claimant's expert witness, a neurological surgeon, if the on-call orthopedist sent the man to the hospital after he called to complain about postoperative pain, his condition could have been diagnosed and treated before his neurologic symptoms set in. The inappropriate surgical technique used during the implantation operation caused the spinal damage, but the man's injury shifted from a treatable condition to a permanent injury due to the delay in postoperative treatment.

  • Like any surgery, SCS implantation has risks. Because the man allegedly had no demonstrable medical need for SCS, he was unnecessarily and inappropriately exposed to the risks of surgery. Even if the implantation was justifiable, plaintiffs' lawyers argue, the SCS was not placed in the area of the man's spine that was associated with his complaints.

  • Plaintiff's attorneys will likely argue that the surgeon had an obligation given the plaintiff's level of pain after the placement of a spinal cord stimulator to order a radiographic evaluation of the spine like an MRI or a CT myelogram to determine the cause of the patient's pain. Had they done so, the patient would have gotten more immediate surgery to evacuate the hematoma and decompress the spinal cord before the patient lost function.

  • The settlement value of a spinal cord stimulation implantation medical malpractice case will depend on the severity of the injury and the strength of the liability case against the doctor.  This case would seem to have a high settlement value if the claim against the doctors could be proven.  But this case was apparently dismissed in September 2019 because the plaintiff did not provide an expert certificate as required by Maryland law. 

  • Frederick County
  • A pain management and spine specialist
  • Two orthopedic surgeons
  • Monocacy Surgery Center
  • Mid-Maryland Musculoskeletal Institute
  • Pain and Spine Specialists of Maryland, LLC
  • Mid-Maryland Musculoskeletal Institute, a division of Centers for Advanced Orthopaedics, LLC
  • Centers for Advanced Orthopaedics, LLC
  • Centers for Advanced Orthopaedics Foundation, Inc.
Hospitals Where Patient was Treated
  • Frederick Memorial Hospital
  • Failing to properly interpret the results of the spinal cord stimulator trial.
  • Failing to place the spinal cord stimulator in the correct location.
  • Failing to perform a thorough neurological examination or take a complete medical history.
  • Failing to timely assess and treat the claimant's neurological deficit when he first presented to Frederick Memorial Hospital.
  • Failing to appreciate the seriousness of the claimant's postoperative pain.
Specific Counts Pled
  • As a direct result of the defendants' negligence, the claimant suffered painful and permanent physical and emotional injuries, incurred medical expenses, and lost his job.

  • Loss of Consortium - The claimant's wife suffered emotional pain and the loss of her husband's companionship as a result of the defendants' negligence.

Plaintiff's Experts and Areas of Specialty
  • Gary Lustgarten, M.D., Neurologic, Orthopedic, and Spinal Surgery
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