Patient sues GW for alleged negligence in spinal surgery

A patient is suing the University, GW Hospital and Medical Faculty Associates for $5 million, alleging doctors caused respiratory issues and skin tears during a spinal surgery in 2017.

In a 16-page complaint filed in D.C. Superior Court Wednesday, Roy Bowden alleges Michael Rosner, an MFA neurosurgeon, performed a corpectomy and spinal fusion – which together would remove part of the spine before doctors would connect two or more vertebrae – that left Bowden struggling to swallow on top of breathing issues. Bowden alleges he suffered skin tears after he was readmitted to an intensive care unit, as doctors failed to reposition him on a hospital bed that was lacerating skin in the sacral area, near his posterior and lower back.

“The Plaintiff further alleges that all of the injuries, damages and losses complained of by him were caused by the negligent and careless acts and omissions of the Defendants,” the complaint states.

GW Hospital spokeswoman Susan Griffiths, MFA spokeswoman Barbara Porter and University spokeswoman Crystal Nosal did not return requests for comment.

The complaint states that Rosner decided to proceed with the surgery in February 2017 despite his knowledge that Bowden previously underwent anterior cervical discectomy and fusion – which involves an incision to remove a bone disk from the neck – and suffered from hyperostosis, spinal ligament hardening. This condition placed him at greater risk of brain and spinal damage that would necessitate a second neck surgery, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit states that the defendants failed to inform Bowden of the “alternatives and risks” tied to the corpectomy and therefore failed to receive his consent for the surgical operation.

The lawsuit also lists District Hospital Partners, the existing partnership between GW Hospital and its majority owner, Universal Health Services, as one of the defendants in the case.

The lawsuit states that Rosner failed to treat dural tears, which are cuts in Bowden’s brain, and fluid leakage that past surgeries caused, which the complaint states were prominent during Bowden’s surgery in February 2017.

Rosner did not return a request for comment.

Following his surgery, the hospital transferred Bowden to the ICU, where he began to experience “respiratory distress,” the complaint states. The lawsuit states Bowden underwent an “emergency” tracheostomy, a neck incision to insert a breathing pipe, a week after his transfer to treat his breathing difficulties.

The lawsuit states Bowden experienced a 103 degree fever four days later, prompting hospital staff to conduct blood work.

The lawsuit states that doctors did not check Bowden for pressure wounds or skin damage during his hospitalization until March 6, following physician requests and Bowden’s own inability to turn himself over in bed. Caretakers discovered skin tears on Bowden’s right forearm and left buttocks and applied cream and foam to treat the wounds before a wound care nurse visited Bowden two days later, the complaint states.

“The GWUH wound care nurse visited Mr. Bowden for the first time and found skin adherence to the foam that had been applied to both of his buttocks, with the tissue sloughing off and his skin having a darkened color,” the complaint states.

The lawsuit states Bowden underwent removal of these bedsores on March 15 and lost control of his bladder the same day, requiring doctors to apply to Bowden a condom catheter, which guides urine through an attached tube, and a rectum tube used to prevent diarrhea.

Bowden received a wound vac, a device used to close a wound, for his sacral area after doctors diagnosed him with a Stage IV pressure injury on March 16, according to the lawsuit. He left the hospital March 21, the lawsuit states.

Bowden could not be reached for comment.

Bowden alleges the complications he withstood after his spinal surgery caused “permanent injury and damage” and additional medical expenses from continuous treatment following his release from GW Hospital.

“Plaintiff was confined to hospitals, nursing homes and rehabilitation centers for treatment of the serious injuries that he sustained and that he has been, and will continue to be, prevented from engaging in his normal vocations, avocations, activities and pursuits,” the complaint states.

Bowden is electing for a trial by jury, according to the lawsuit.

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