Visitor Question

Wrong Vertebra Fused!

Submitted By: Deborah (Albuquerque, NM, USA)

I was supposed to have L3-L4-L5 vertebrae fused due to spinal stenosis, facet joint arthritis, degenerative disc disease, and spondylolisthesis by a local neurosurgeon.

There were many appointments over 2 years with the surgeon about the need for this surgery… many MRIs, a CT Scan, and x-rays, all indicating these diagnoses, plus identifying my scoliosis.

The surgeon explained the surgery with me, my questions were answered about these levels and the fusion.

I then agreed to this major invasive surgery which took me 2 years to commit to.

I followed all the pre-op procedures, and signed off on the fusion for Lumbar levels 3-4-5 prior to my surgery.

To my surprise, after my second post-op follow-up with the surgeon’s assistant, the x-ray report indicated lumbar levels L4-L5-L6 were fused. In fact, I made an appointment to talk about the intense pain I was experiencing before my 2nd follow-up was due. I then discovered that three separate post-op x-rays indicate the L4-L5-L6 fusion.

I was not even aware I had 6 non-rib bearing vertebrae, as this was never brought to my attention.

My most recent x-ray report also indicated now worsening scoliosis and other changes at the L3-L4 level (the level that should have been fused), and narrowing disc space at the L5-L6 level (a level that I did not agree to fusing, nor was this even discussed with me), and I now have other worsening conditions and symptoms.

I’m still in pain. Do I have a malpractice case?

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.


Dear Deborah,

From the facts you present, you may have the basis for a medical malpractice claim against the doctor and the hospital where the surgery was performed. Hospitals are generally liable for the actions and omissions of the doctors who practice there.

You don’t mention in your fact presentation whether or not you have visited with the surgeon who performed the surgery. Before proceeding, sit down with the doctor and find out what happened. You have a right to an explanation.

If you aren’t satisfied with the explanation, request from the doctor copies of all your medical records, medical bills, test results, x-rays, MRI results, and any other related documents. Then make appointments with several medical malpractice attorneys in your area.

Take with you copies of all your documents. Most med mal attorneys do not charge a fee for an initial office consultation. Visit with several attorneys until you have a general idea of the viability of your claim and which attorney you feel most comfortable with.

The attorney you choose will “front” all of the costs necessary to pursue your case, including expensive medical expert medical testimony. Once your attorney has successfully settled or won you case in court, he or she will deduct a percentage of that amount, usually around 33-40%, plus costs of expert testimony, and other costs related to your case.

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

Best of luck,

Published: February 6, 2015

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