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my story

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,662
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:39 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
My 1st back surgery was in Aug of 2007. Prior to this surgery I had suffered with back & leg pain for 3 years. After trying conservative measures to try and alleviate the pain, I was referred to a neurosurgeon and eventually had spinal fusion surgery of L5, S1. I was out of work for 3 months on temporary disability. I saw improvement in my condition on a daily basis, and for 2 years I had felt the best I've felt in a long time.
Fast forward to August 2009... I was feeling great, I had no restriction. I was working full time as a staff nurse at a community hospital on their Observation Unit. One day while at work I had just finished making a pot of coffee, I bent over to return some coffee creamers to the refrigerator I immediately felt a sharp pain, the worst pain I’ve felt in several years. I felt like I was struck by a lightning bolt. I went to my supervisor, filled out an incident report, and then went to employee health; they referred me to the Emergency Department. The ER Dr told me all the hardware “looked good” and that it was probably a “pulled muscle”. However, Lumbar spine X-ray had revealed that the titanium hardware in my back was not intact and had fractured in several areas. CT scan also revealed that only part of the fusion had taken. For some reason it had bonded to the L5 vertebra but not S1. 2 months later , October 21, 2009, I would have a second surgery; anterior & posterior fusion, removal of old hardware, implant new hardware, and revise the fusion. The surgery took 13 hours.
My Dr said he has never in his 19 yrs of practice had a patient that has experienced this (failed hardware & fusion) before. He is unable to answer why only part of my fusion had taken and not the other. He did inform me that the fusion was eventually to be stronger that the titanium rods & screws and that I believe. I do not have the old hardware as a morbid souvenir, but I do have all of my films. There is something that is concerning me and causing me to have sleepless nights when I dwell on it. I don’t know how to approach my Doctor with my concerns without offending him. After my 1st surgery I had an L spine x-ray done 3 months post op. During my convalescence following surgery, as I mentioned I was seeing progress daily I felt great, the best in a long time. I had over extended my self one day while reaching for a pair of socks and felt a "pop" in my back (This was late October, early November, 2-3 months after surgery). I immediately called my Doctor. He told me that, “If I could have seen the hardware in my back and the time spent securing the device while in the O.R., he could have hung me from the rafters, that’s how strong & secure they (the hardware) are”. “That stuffs not going anywhere”. He felt it was probably a facet joint and wasn't too concerned but would do an x ray to be sure, and planned on doing a CT scan at 6 months post-op. I felt confident in his assessment. He ordered a standard PA & lateral view x-ray of the lumbar spine that was completed in November 2007. There was one view that was kind of offset and not very clear, but you could see the hardware.
At the time I didn't think much of it....
Fast forward to my August of '09 x-ray and you can clearly see a screw that has pulled through the rod and another screw that was completely snapped in half. When I compare this 8/09 x-ray to the 11/07 x-ray it looks like one of the screws may have pulled through the rod, but no mention of it on the official radiology report. The CT scan I had done in September 2009 did not mention any broken hardware either but there obviously was, and neither did my 6 month post-op CT scan mention any hardware malfunction.
October 24th, 2009 I was discharged from the hospital. I'm home now on temporary disability following the 2nd surgery (why it was not processed through workman’s compensation I don’t know since the injury happened while at work). I am currently out of work for 3 months. The pain I have this time is a lot different compared to the pain following the 1st surgery. I feel the pain in; my back, my groin, my hips, my legs, my feet, my buttocks. It is not all of the time, and not always severe. [And] sometimes it's just a dull ache, other times it's a severe, sharp, stabbing, debilitating pain that will take your breath away. I am contemplating filing a lawsuit for the first time in my life to further investigation into why the hardware had failed and why only part of the fusion took after the 1st surgery. My guess is that when I heard a “pop” back in 2007, it was the screw head pulling out of the rod and it had off set the fusion at the L5-S1 level and that is why only part of the fusion had taken and not the other. I am also concerned that now as a result of having had to have a 2nd surgery will I now have to endure a life time of back pain and limitations.
I have a wife, 3 kids, a dog, 1 motorcycle, 2 cars, & a mortgage. We love our life together and our current lifestyle. If disability is in my future this will more than certainly change things for us. I am not looking for permanent disability. I want to work. I have never filed a lawsuit. Frankly, going to court kind of scares me. I like my Doctor. He made me pain free after 3 years of suffering with excruciating back & leg pain. After the first surgery his office called and asked me if I would talk to some of his patients who were reluctant to have spinal fusion surgery, and since I was doing so well, I was more than happy to do so. I never want anyone to have to suffer the way I did. To me he was a miracle worker. I felt it was the least I could do. Was I wrong? Did the radiologist miss something on the x-ray? Did my Doctor miss something on the x-ray? The ER Doctor missed what was obvious to me. We are all human and make mistakes. Is this one that I will have to endure for the rest of my life? Do I have a right to compensation for pain & suffering? How much would be fair? I would give anything not to have to be going through this. One surgery was enough for me (so I thought).
If 99.9% is good enough, then . . .

12 newborns will be given to the wrong parents daily.

114,500 mismatched pairs of shoes will be shipped/year.

18,322 pieces of mail will be mishandled/hour.

2,000,000 documents will be lost by the IRS this year.

2.5 million Books will be shipped with the wrong covers.

Two planes landing at Chicago's O'Hare airport will be unsafe every day.

315 entries in Webster's dictionary will be misspelled.

20,000 incorrect drug prescriptions will be written this year.

880,000 credit cards in circulation will turn out to have incorrect
cardholder information on their magnetic strips.

103,260 income tax returns will be processed incorrectly during the year.

5.5 million Cases of soft drinks produced will be flat.

291 pacemaker operations will be performed incorrectly.

3,056 copies of tomorrow's Wall Street Journal will be missing one of the
three sections.



  • Most of those numbers at the bottom of your post are so low!!Look up six sigma and you will see that most companies would be thrilled with 99.9% accuracy.

    On the more serious side. I understand your frustration. Before you make yourself crazy about a lawsuit I would check the legal statutes in your state. Most medical lawsuits are limited in time - often to one year from the incident.

    I would ask your doctor to explain what you see on the xrays. It is possible but I doubt that each radiologist and at least two doctors missed a popped screw. I don't know alot about fusion but from what I have read they should have done post op films to see if you had fused. You should question your doctor about this as well. I would start the conversation with "I've been thinking about why this happened and wondered....."

    As far as disability vs WC ask your HR department. They may have gone with disability because this happened when you were doing a "break time" activity and not in the course of your job responsibilities and it was not due to conditions in the hospital. If you slipped and feel they are responsible. Since you were on break and bending down caused the pop it would be hard to blame work.

    Right now you need to concentrate on healing. No one wants to be on disability for life. It sounds like you need to get these questions out of the way so that you can get on with healing.

    Good Luck with work and your doctor. And let us know what happens. We learn from each other.
  • Wow, I cannot imagine what you must be going through. Unfortunately, we are all humans. I guess the question is was there gross negligence and how will this impact you with other doctor relationships.

    At teh same time, if something was missed in the past, it's your right to know and why doctors carry mal-practice.

    You are in a tough spot. I do think you have a right to have any confusions clarified. I think you can ask your doctor and perhaps ask another doctor to explain . . .though doubtful any other doctor is going to give you an opinion unless you needed more care . . .which I guess is why you are posting. You are in a bind.

    I wish I could offer you advice. I just know I don't envy you.
  • SpineAZSpineAZ WiscPosts: 1,084
    Often is there is an existing problem, such as previous back surgery, that gets aggravated while at work it is deemed not work related and thus not compensable under WC.

    In many ways that can be a good thing if you have STD and or LTD through your employer (or if you live in the states that have state STD which are CA, NJ, NY, RI, HI and PR). The reason I say this is when it's not WC you get to direct your care and who you see. And LTD lasts much longer than WC.

    It's important to take a look at your whole situation and decide if you would want to pursue legal means. Once I considered it.

    I had ACL repair surgery in NJ in 96. It fell apart and I let him fix it 4 months later. Bad mistake as he screwed it up again. When I moved to IL I found a doctor who did a full evaluation and said that the doctor in NJ had done the ACL procedure totally backwards. (I ended up having that guy fix it - he said he could make it work well but it wouldn't be so good looking but that was fine by that time). So I consulted with an attorney in NY and one in NJ. Each said I could probably win the case in 5 years or more but to be prepared for the other side to expose and request every medical record, have repeated examinations, to heavily concentrate on prior knee surgery, request medical tests and possibly to delay other treatment as to prove my case. Also, since I was covered by STD and LTD the amount I could get in lost income would be less than someone with no income replacement and if I applied and was granted SSDI that would also be income they would not have to replace. In the end, they were all honest with me and said after legal fees and associated fees (medical exams, etc, would come out of my award if I were to win) I'd be lucky to net $15K in the end maybe 5 yr down the line. Since I had excellent medical insurance and disability insurance I chose to walk away from the possibility of a suit.

    However, if permanent damage has been done that makes one less functional then it's more serious and legal consideration is something to be investigated. Keep in mind if you've had more than one procedure in the same area it will be hard for anyone to say what happened when and why unless there is a clear case of negligence (i.e surgeon says he put in two plates and xrays show one). Body healing issues will come into play and that makes some of it a guessing game.

    But, it can't hurt to consult with a few attorneys. If they are good attorneys they will counsel you (for free or low fee) as to what they really expect in the process and possible outcome (not some personal injury type attorney who aims for his fee alone). The attorneys I consulted could have made quite a bit off of me...but they knew it would take a lot out of me. So look for that kind of honesty.

    Best of luck to you

    2 ACDFs, 2 PCDF, 3 LIFs; Rt TKR; Rt thumb fusion ; Lt thumb arthroplasty; Ehlers Danlos 
  • I once got in a serious car accident and was told I could not claim my back injuries merely because I had been to a chiropractor before to be adjusted from getting stiff and sore while sitting at my desk at work. If you have ANYTHING wrong with a body part and then have it injured later on, you can't claim the damage -- kind of like a pre-existing condition when you go to sign up for new health insurance.

    I'm sorry to hear of the situation in which you find yourself. Yes, the Earth is populated by humans and we are all fallible. I hope you can find the best solution to getting your health back and working out a good budget for your family.


    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
  • I think that you should investigate your concerns. You may already be aware of the fact that medical lawsuits are very hard to prove.

    I am so sorry that you had to endure this surgery twice. I only hope that you are still healing and will get even better yet.

    I would question HR about why it was not treated as a WC claim for sure. It does not sound to me that you were on a break at all as the above poster mentioned. Even if you were I think that it would still be an on the job injury.

    Just because you had a previous surgery means nothing. Until the exact moment that you bent over at work, you were fine.

    Good luck and please keep us posted.
  • One question you need to ask that my attorney has pointed out to me:

    Were you experiencing problems before the accident? and - Did the accident make it worse?

    I am in the middle of all the legal stuff myself and have no idea what my future will be. I know my quality of life has taken a big hit - I can't do any of the acitivities I used to enjoy with my family. But I am still able to work and for that I am thankful. Just wish I didn't have to hide what I'm really feeling all the time. All because someone worked too long of a day and didn't see the stoplight.

    Did I have previous injuries? Yes. Would I have had problems from them in the future, probably. But I definitely saw a big downturn in my life that can be directly attributed to the accident. I could have gone years before having to deal with back and severe ankle problems if not for added trauma of the accident.

    So -in your case; consider if you could have/would have done anything differently if you had known about the broken hardware. Would you have waited until you experienced an incident (the pop with pain) before you decided to go back in and replace the hardware? Maybe you would have been more careful, but if you didn't have pain - would you have replaced the hardware even if you'd known it was broken?

    Things to think about...

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