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Kaiser Botched Spine Surgery, Patient Says

PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) - Kaiser surgeons tore a spinal membrane during surgery and bungled post-op care, leaving a patient with permanent neurologic damage, he claims in in Multnomah County Circuit Court.

In his medical malpractice lawsuit against Northwest Permanente, P.C. and Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, Inc., Matthew Duke seeks $6 million. His wife, Annie Duke, seeks $1 million for loss of consortium.

In his complaint, Matthew Duke says Kaiser tore a membrane in his spine, the dura, during surgery in March of 2012, causing bleeding "which would not be stopped and the source of which could not be identified. This placed plaintiff at increased risk of developing a post operative fluid collection which could place pressure on the nerves and nerve roots in the lumbar spine resulting in permanent neurologic damage."

And that is exactly what happened, according to the six-page complaint.

Although doctors installed a drain in Duke's spine "to prevent or minimize fluid collection," the drain "failed and was discontinued. Thereafter plaintiff developed a significant accumulation of blood and fluid in and around his lumbar spine which caused pressure on his nerve roots. Plaintiff exhibited, experienced and complained of various signs and symptoms of this increased pressure," the complaint states.

An MRI revealed "a large fluid collection extending along a significant portion of plaintiff's lumbar spine and resulting in compression upon the spinal canal and structures within the spinal canal," the complaint continues.

A second surgery was done, "but by then plaintiff had suffered significant, permanent neurologic damage as a result of the fluid collection and he has cauda equina syndrome," the complaint states.

On its website, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons calls cauda equina syndrome "a surgical emergency" and says delayed treatment can cause "permanent paralysis, impaired bladder and/or bowel control, loss of sexual sensation, and other problems."

Duke blames Kaiser for tearing his dura, failing to adequately repair it, failing to find and stop the source of the bleeding, failing to correctly install the drain that was supposed to relieve the pressure and replace it when it failed, failing to monitor and respond quickly enough to his post operative symptoms, waiting too long before the second surgery, giving him too much pain medication which masked his symptoms, and not reporting the MRI results to his surgeon quickly enough.

Plaintiffs are represented by Robert S. Wagner and David K. Miller of Miller & Wagner in Portland.

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