Botched arthroscopic knee surgery...

by Becca
(San Antonio, Texas)

I'm a 29 year old female athlete in good health. In early 2014 I suffered from severe IT band syndrome in my left knee. I had gone through 6 months of physical therapy and 2 rounds of cortisone injections before my doctor suggested IT band release surgery.

I had two prior arthroscopic knee surgeries due to a previous injury over 10 years ago. My MRI showed no scar tissue or loss of cartilage. The doctor remarked that my knee "looked great" aside from some inflammation around the IT band. At the pre-op appointment, he described the IT band release surgery in detail.

When I expressed concern over a 3rd knee surgery, he explained it was not actually a knee surgery, as the work is done outside of the knee joint, so I didn't need to worry about scar tissue, etc.

When I went in for surgery I was extremely nervous and had a headache, so I was given an IV with fluids and a pain reliever (Tylenol, I believe). The doctor came in and explained that he was going to perform the procedure arthroscopically rather than making an incision, and that he was going to "look around" to make sure there was no scar tissue that needed removed.

In my nervous state, I thought he was saying he was going to make the IT band repair using the arthroscope, so I consented.

Two months later I had a post-op visit and expressed concern that I wasn't healing as quickly as expected. That's when I found out that he had not performed an IT band release at all. Rather, he had simply removed some of the inflammation caused by the tight tendon, thus fixing the symptom rather than the cause of the injury.

He told me at that point he could perform the full release in a separate surgery. I was floored, because the whole time I had assumed he had done the IT band release I had originally consented to.

Instead, he performed a full-knee arthroscopy that the MRI indicated was unnecessary. It's been 8 months, and I am waiting to see a different doctor to find out if I can have the surgery corrected.

My out-of-pocket expenses for the last surgery combined with missed work makes it unlikely I will be able to have the problem surgically corrected this year, unless I seek compensation. Is it the first doctor's responsibility to compensate me for the cost of the surgery, since he messed up the first one? What can I do? Thank you.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Botched arthroscopic knee surgery...":

Becca (San Antonio, Texas):

According to WebMD, "The iliotibial band (IT) is a band of fibrous tissue that runs down the outside of the thigh. It provides stability to the knee and hip and helps prevent dislocation of those joints. The band may overdevelop, tighten, and rub across the hipbone or the outer part of the knee.

Each time the knee is bent or the hip flexed, the band rubs against bone. This is particularly common in runners, cyclists, and people who participate in other aerobic activities."


Whether or not medical malpractice occurred will depend on whether or not the doctor’s actions were discretionary, and whether other doctors in the local medical community would have exercised the same discretion when dealing with your knee... or if the doctor’s actions fell beneath the standard off medical care appropriate for the type of knee procedure you underwent.

Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor’s actions or omissions fall beneath the medical standard off care followed by other doctors in the medical community. Moreover, to have the basis of a malpractice claim requires that the doctor harmed you in some way.

To know whether the doctor committed medical malpractice will require one or more expert medical opinions. If those medical opinions confirm that the doctor's actions or omissions were not appropriate, and that they fell beneath the standard of medical care, your case will be stronger.

It's very unlikely you will be able to find one or more doctors to assist you. Most doctors do not want to criticize other doctors, especially if they work in the same community, or have privileges in the same hospitals.

To be able to properly pursue a med mal claim will require representation by an experienced malpractice attorney. Fortunately, most attorneys will not charge for an initial office consultation.

Gather copies of your medical records from the doctor. You have a right to them. Then make several appointments with medical malpractice attorneys in your area. Most will have websites, describing the types off cases they handle.

If you find an attorney to accept your case, the attorney will provide the expert medical opinions. Malpractice attorneys work with medical experts all the time. Moreover, if you find an attorney to accept your case, you will not be charged any legal fees until, and unless the attorney settles your case or wins it at trial.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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