The surgeon’s responsibility to the patient does not end when the surgery is over. After surgery, a surgeon has a responsibility to monitor and watch for the development of significant post-surgical complications. If they fail to do so, there may be medical malpractice for the failure to diagnose conditions that occur. For example, Attorney Matzus is pursuing a case on behalf of a woman who became paralyzed and is incontinent as to both her bladder and bowel because the surgeon and the surgical team failed to monitor her post-surgical condition.

The woman developed a spinal epidural abscess (SEA) following back surgery. A spinal epidural abscess is an infection that forms in the epidural space around the spinal cord. It is a medical emergency. If left untreated, a spinal cord abscess can cause permanent paralysis, such as quadriplegia or paraplegia.

In this case, the patient manifested clear signs and symptoms of spinal cord infection, such as leg weakness which progressed to the inability to stand, and complaints of bowel and bladder incontinence. An MRI was performed that showed evidence of an epidural abscess in her spine that was compressing and causing pressure on the spinal cord. The surgeon and the surgical team ignored these very concerning findings until it was too late. Ultimately, another surgeon had to take over the patient’s care, but by the time that surgeon performed emergency surgery, the damage had already been done and the woman suffered permanent irreversible spinal cord injury resulting in paraplegia and permanent neurologic injury to her bladder and bowel. She is confined to a wheelchair for the rest of her life, and she self-catheterizes for bladder relief and has an ileostomy bag for bowel drainage.