Unnecessary Back Fusion Surgery Results in 1 Million Verdict – Andrews v. Pedersen

Often surgery is seen as a last resort in medical treatment; doctors usually turn to performing an operation only if no other option exists. This is because surgery itself is not only risky, but can also lead to a wide range of additional complications. Doctors often opt for the least invasive surgery possible in an attempt to minimize the risk of complications. However, the McHenry County surgical malpractice lawsuit of Douglas Andrews v. Marshall E. Pederson, M.D., et al., 05 LA 180, claimed that the defendant surgeon instead performed a more invasive surgery than was necessary.

The Illinois medical malpractice lawsuit was brought by the 59-year-old plaintiff against his surgeon and his medical group, Dr. Marshall Pedersen and Fox Valley Neurosurgery, Ltd., respectively. The plaintiff, Douglas Andrews, a former Illinois State Police trooper, claimed that Dr. Pedersen performed an unnecessary spinal surgery that resulted in additional back problems.

Mr. Andrews, had originally presented to Dr. Pedersen with a herniated disc that was radiating pain down his leg. Dr. Pedersen recommended that Andrews undergo an extensive spinal fusion surgery, which he then performed on Andrews. However, this type of surgery is often done as a last resort for persistent back pain. A spinal fusion involves permanently fusing together vertebrae, which not only limits a patient’s mobility, but can also lead to additional back pain because of the increased pressure put on the other areas of the spine.

In fact, it was this common complication of new back pain that Mr. Andrews experienced. Following the fusion surgery, the plaintiff began experiencing daily back pain and sustained nerve damage that caused his right foot to drop. As a result of these serious complications, he was no longer able to perform his duties as a state trooper. In addition, other physicians have suggested that Mr. Andrews will now need additional surgeries to correct these surgical complications.

Mr. Andrews’s complaint is not alleging that there were any surgical errors during the procedure, but rather that he should not have had the higher-risk surgery in the first place. In fact, the common procedure used to treat Mr. Andrews’s original back pain is a relatively simple microdiscectomy. Rather than involving fusing vertebrae and inserting hardware into the spine, a microdiscectomy only involves removing the area of the herniated disc that is pushing on the spinal cord. The purpose of doing so is to remove the pressure on the spinal cord that was the cause of the pain radiating down Mr. Andrews’s leg.

After both sides presented their arguments, the McHenry County jury returned a $1 million verdict in favor of the plaintiff, making it the highest medical malpractice jury award in McHenry County history. The plaintiff was represented by attorney Jerome A. Vinkler of Vinkler Law Offices (Burr Ridge, Illinois).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Illinois surgical and medical negligence lawsuits for individuals and families for more than 36 years in and around Chicago and Cook County, including Crystal Lake, Morton Grove, Des Plaines, Niles, and Oak Forest.

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