Patient Who Lost Sight during Operation Wins Claim against Surgical Consultant

A compensation claim against a surgical consultant has been settled at the Court of Common Pleas in Delaware County in favor of a patient who lost his sight due to medical malpractice.

In 2008, Bruce Drainer met with surgical consultant Dr Hagop DerKrikorian at the Riddle Memorial Hospital in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, to seek treatment for a back complaint that had started as a work injury three years previously and had subsequently been diagnosed as a degenerative disc disease.

Dr DerKrikorian advised Bruce that he should undergo surgery to repair his damaged spinal discs, but Bruce resisted having an operation until January 2012. According to information obtained from court papers, the pre-operation procedures went to plan; Bruce was anesthetized prior to the operation and placed in the prone position.

When Bruce awoke from the anesthesia, he was unable to see. When he fully recovered from the operation, it also became apparent that the operation had failed to repair his damaged spinal discs and he was still in considerable pain. Bruce subsequently underwent two further surgeries to resolve the problem.

After seeking legal advice, Bruce made a compensation claim against the surgical consultant. An investigation into the operation found that during the surgery Bruce developed arterial hypotension. It was also alleged that the length of the operation – in excess of eight hours – was the cause of Bruce losing his sight, and that he had received too much of one intravenous fluid and too little of another. It was also claimed that Bruce´s blood pressure had been inadequately monitored throughout the procedure.

Defense lawyers contested the claim against the consultant surgeon and argued that Bruce´s post-operative blindness could have been due to any number of factors. They pointed to his medical record of treatment for obesity, anxiety, panic disorder, depression, severe degenerative joint disease and suspected sleep apnea, and highlighted his diabetes which – they claimed – “was not well controlled”.

The claim against the surgical consultant was heard by a jury before Judge Charles Burr II at the Court of Common Pleas in Delaware County. The jury heard that operations to repair spinal disc damage often take more than four hours and that no risk factors had been identified prior to surgery that would pre-dispose Bruce to post-operative blindness.

Bruce´s lawyers countered by arguing that if the surgery had been performed within a reasonable amount of time, Bruce´s arterial hypotension treated effectively, the correct volumes of intravenous fluids administered and Bruce´s blood pressure monitored correctly, he would not have suffered post-operative blindness. The jury found in Bruce´s favor, and awarded him $21.8 million in settlement of his claim against the surgical consultant.