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Physician cleared in malpractice suit over spinal tap

A Clay County jury has ruled in favor of the defense in a matter related to injuries alleged in a follow-up procedure for a spinal tap.

“The plaintiff was in her mid-30s,” said James Myers of Shaffer Lombardo Shurin, which represented Dr. Joseph Caresio and Alliance Radiology in the matter. “She had suffered from some pretty severe migraine headaches since her early 20s. She had one in the summer of 2013 that had some accompanying neck pain. They thought she might have meningitis so they sent her over to the hospital to do a spinal tap.”

However Myers said leakage of spinal fluid occurred after the procedure necessitating use of a “blood patch,” a second procedure in which blood is introduced into the site of the spinal tap so it can clot and seal the hole.

The suit by patient Judith Williams alleged that the doctor erred during the procedure by injecting too much blood into the site causing neurological injury.

“The allegations were essentially that he used too much blood and that he allowed the blood to clot before he used it,” said Myers. “They are claiming that impinged on some nerves in the back and caused some lower extremity nerve damage.”

He said the plaintiff claimed “drop foot” on her left side and a general sensation of pain and fatigue.

Myers countered by arguing that the procedure had been conducted correctly and that the injury was not physical.

“We disputed both the cause and the extent of it,” he said. “Our defense was essentially that it was a psychosomatic injury. In other words, she really didn’t have a physical injury but she was fearful of having one so her brain convinced her body.”

He said that medical testing backed his analysis of her problems and that there was no objective evidence to support her claims.

“I don’t think that anyone disputed that she was really feeling pain but it wasn’t from any physical symptoms,” Myers said. “In fact, they had done nerve conduction studies and MRIs. There was no impingement on any nerves.”

He was not able to speak with the jury afterward but he believed that the lack of a neurology expert on the plaintiff’s side may have helped his case, although the plaintiff introduced testimony from her treating neurologist.

He said that the plaintiffs sought $1,775,000 in damages though they did not introduce future or past medical expenses in the case.

Tom Pickert and Ryan Fowler of Fowler Pickert, which represented the plaintiff, did not return a request for comment for this story.

Defense verdict

Medical malpractice

Venue: Clay County Circuit Court

Case Number/Date: 14CY-CV10653/May 6, 2016

Judge: Shane Terril Alexander

Plaintiff’s Experts: Brian McAlary, Chicago, (anesthesiology); Cori Ingram, Basehor, Kan., (life care planner)

Defendant’s Experts: John Selhorst, St. Louis, (neurology); Frank Clark, Evanston, Illinois, (anesthesiology)

Caption: Judith Williams v. Joseph Caresio, MD; Alliance Radiology, PA

Plaintiff’s Attorneys: Tom Pickert and Ryan Fowler, Fowler & Pickert, Leawood, Kansas

Defendant’s Attorney: Jim Myers, Shaffer Lombardo Shurin, Kansas City

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