Spine Surgery Expert Witnesses & Red Sox Bobby Jenks Award

Spine surgeons treat problems of the cervical, thoracic, lumbar, and sacral spine. Given the critically sensitive anatomy of the spine, spinal cord, and nerve roots, when sports or work-related injuries occur, they may require complex surgery. In How Can I Find the Best Spinal Surgeon?, U.S. News Health contributing author Elaine K. Howley describes the spine as a “complex system, with lots of moving parts, which means it’s relatively easy for one piece to shift out of optimal alignment or incur an injury.” Serious conditions and injuries requiring surgery may include slipped, ruptured or compressed discs, fractures and dislocations, pinched nerves,  disc herniation, and spinal trauma (fractures).

In the national news, former Boston Red Sox pitcher Bobby Jenks will receive $5.1M to settle a medical malpractice lawsuit against Massachusetts General Hospital and orthopedic surgeon Dr. Kirkham Wood. Jenks alleges that he suffered a career-ending spine injury when Dr. Wood performed surgery on his spine while overseeing another operation at the same time. Jenks was never advised that Dr. Wood was supervising a second surgery.

Two weeks following surgery, Jenks suffered the results of a dural tear. A dural tear occurs when the surgeon’s instrument nicks the thin covering over the spinal cord. Dural sac tears can cause serious conditions including cerebrospinal fluid leakage, meningitis, and nerve problems. If the doctor repairs the tear during surgery, the tear usually heals without complications. If the tear is not addressed during surgery, it may not heal and then continue to leak spinal fluid.  Spinal headaches and spinal meningitis may ensue, leading to a second spinal operation.

Defense lawyers for Dr. Wood and MGH argued in court that the spine surgeon performed the entirety of Jenks’s spinal surgery before he entered the OR for the next patient and described Jenks’s treatment as meeting or exceeding the standard of care. In contrast, the Arizona surgeon who repaired Jenks’ dural tear told the athlete that Dr. Wood failed to complete the spine operation and left a bony spicule that caused the tear.

Spine surgery expert witnesses serve an invaluable role in analyzing the standard of care in medical malpractice litigation. Negligence claims against spine specialists are increasing due to the growing number of spine procedures performed annually. Contact Elite Medical Experts to retain the top-tier spine surgery expert best suited to the fact pattern in your case.