The Clinical Spine Surgery just published the results of a study looking to answer why VA surgeons keep operating on the wrong part of veterans’ spines.

Errors in standard imaging studies such as taking radiographs or using intraoperative markers were at the root of the malpractice being evaluated. Authors of the study recommended that clinicians attempt to optimize image quality while also being accurate with the interpretation of the studies in question.

According to The Joint Commission, surgery on the wrong site of the spine is one of the leading causes of adverse events. Approximately 50 percent of spine surgeons perform surgery on the wrong site.

VA admitted that 32 cases of wrong site spine surgery occurred between 2000 to 2017. While the number sounds low, the impact of wrong site surgery on the spine seems like an avoidable mistake.

In fact, wrong site spine surgeries are considered “sentinel” events that “may cause severe damages to patients and physicians physically as well as mentally.”

Bad VA Radiology Practices

VA is frequently looking for ways to cut corners to save money while advancing the interests of providers pushing telehealth related services.

One factor likely playing a role in the malpractice is the general use of outsourced imaging studies from your local VA to a radiology department at a VA in California. These services require various software platforms implicating telehealth in various degrees.

Outsourcing of the readings has resulted in many missed opportunities to timely address patients with emergency needs before avoidable death or injury. Frequently, a patient requires an urgent reading but the urgency is lost in translation between the local VA and the radiograph service provider within a VA across the country.

Wrong Site Spine Surgery

If you are a veteran with an injury from wrong site spine surgery, you should speak with an attorney about a possible malpractice case.

You must inform legal counsel at your VA hospital or medical center of the injury, the basis for your claim, and the amount in damages you seek (called the sum total) using a signed writing. That signed writing must be filed within 2 years of your knowledge of the injury.

Veterans frequently use an SF-95 form to be sure you cover all the bases. If you are married, and your wife is injured from loss of consortium or similar, she should also sign the document and provide the value of her damages in addition to yours.

Report back here if you have had an experience with these surgical errors. Have you ever had an issue with bad imaging services from VA?

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16 COMMENTS

  1. Was there a manufacturing defect at Milton Bradley where they make the ‘Operation Board Game’ that’s the #1 training aid for VA hacks?
    Actually, I don’t even remember there being a spine to remove/replace in that classic board game with the red buzzer for when they mess-up. VA Contract for ‘Operation’ board game includes a gross case of batteries for all those battery-draining buzzer mishaps.

    The VA CARES.

  2. “Surgery on the wrong area of the spine!” Kinda reminds me of when VHA’s amputated the wrong limb of the veteran! How do things like this ever happen in today’s “greatest healthcare in the world!”

  3. have you ever taken a good look at some go the people who sport the moniker MD behind their names and on the doors to their sanctum sanctorum? Most of them work for beer money and few of them have the ability to send people to a hospital.

  4. I have engaged my local VA Facility’s Radiological Department (Northport, NY) numerous times over the past 20 years. From X-Rays to CT Scans to MRI’s, I have never experienced a correct radiology report. My imaging history at this Facility includes images of my left foot (twice); my lungs (15 times); and my lower back (three times). Most of these images had to be sent from New York to California to be read. This process can take two to three weeks to complete and another three to four weeks for the VA to notify me. Then comes the 30+ day wait to get an appointment with the “appropriate” Physician. When it came to my lower back in 2015, I was very close to being escorted off the property by VA Keystone Cops. I don’t suffer idiots well. My Bunionectomy had to be re-done in the private sector. My lower back was done in New York City (private sector, also) by a Surgeon who actually knew what he was looking at. My lung biopsies were also done in the private sector along with my bouts with Pneumonia. Honestly, I would rather be buried alive than have this VA Facility put me under the knife.

  5. I have had 10 spine surgeries in the civilian world, most failures. I finally got in to see a man named Dr. David Polly. He replaced all the discount hardware and my back, though 4 levels are fused is so much better. Of course politics enter into business and the local Mpls. left wing paper wrote a hit piece on him. They claimed he only uses 1 brand of parts and then gets kickbacks. I had a talk with him and he laughed, saying those are not kickbacks, in America they are called profits, he designed and holds patents to those parts. He is also a retired Army Ranger surgeon, has written over 100 published papers. Though now retired, at that time about 15 years ago he was still one of three spine doctors with credentials to be called in to the president.

    • Wow! Got my attention hope your feeling better. Had an exray done said uterous..ovaries look fine. That was in 2018 and I just shook my head cause I had a total hysterectomy in 2005.

  6. Not result in bad surgery but an ongoing Radiology issue. Army doc told me in no uncertain terms back when the damage was first starting to show up to NOT let anyone touch my back with a scalpel for the internal crack between the “Dog Ear” and Dog Collar” in L5 back in 85…
    Problem is the damage is understandably hard as hell to catch. Since 1985 only 1/3 of all radiologists/doctors have even caught it “cold” (not knowing to look for it). I can tell how long an Ortho-surgeon has been practicing by if they catch the problem or how much help I have to give them to find it. The damage being so hard to catch has made it so a LOT of cling-on medical types, IE “Pain Management”, new PC’s, etc etc will start out from the it’s not there and start treatments (not really a bloody thing they can do) from that. I had one clown that I had FIRED for putting me on Methadone when I was doing just fine on as needed T3’s somehow get back into my treatment team claiming the physical damage wasn’t there and so I didn’t need support EVEN THOUGH THAT VA HOSPITAL HAD CONFIRMED THE DAMAGE AS BEING AS DESCRIBED TWO TIMES PREVIOUSLY…

  7. My husband, a decorated Vietnam Veteran was given a X-ray after complaining of neck and shoulder pain. He was never informed of the results because the doctor that order the X-ray left. He was not assigned a new doctor for 13 months. At our VA Hospital you are told no news is good news. He thought it was from an old injury. However, he started to have new symptoms, more pain, balance issues, dropping things, bowel leakage, headaches, head drop, etc. This continued for many years. He saw his primary doctor ever four month, was referred to neurological clinic where the head of the department saw him once, told him he did not know what was wrong with him and kicked him out. He was refused treatment and they did no testing. Finally in 2015 he could not withstand the pain any longer. He begged for a MRI of his brain. He was ready to kill himself because the pain was so bad. The MRI was done and it showed he had severe Cervical Spinal Stenosis, his brain stem was being sucked into his spinal column. He needed surgery ASAP! The VA refused telling him to come back in six months and they would talk about it. I took him to a private neurosurgeon, he operated but it was to late. The damage was already done because they waited to long. You remember that X-ray in 2004 that my husband was never informed of. It turns out that he had the beginning stages of Cervical Spinal Stenosis. He was left untreated for 11 years while doctors watched my husband condition deteriorate. We only found out about the 2004 X-ray, marked routine, in 2016. Someone was kind enough to leave it on a disc for us to see. We filed a tort claim.in plenty of time,, certainly within the time frame. We were denied because they said the statute of limitations was up referring to the 2004 X-ray that we were never informed of until 2016, by mistake. My husband had to have another surgery,same neurosurgeon, last April or he would have died or been paralyzed from the neck down . He is now a fourth stage incomplete quadriplegic. I have him home with me and I take care of him with some outside help I pay for. They have refused him Aide and Attendance. Eventually our money will run out, he will die and I will be left without a home. Is this the way you treat a decorated Vietnam Veteran! Oh, I forgot something, I am known by the VA as a Whistleblower. They told me when I uncovered something, a wrong doing at the VA that went viral, I would live to regret it. I guess they finally told the truth!

  8. I have not had any problems with my spine at least nothing that a visit to the chiropractor couldn’t cure. However when reading about this issue a thought came to mind. Perhaps it would be best that the VA doctors treat only medical issues that are basic and general in nature like, colds, the flu, screenings, fractures, physical therapy, infusions, labs, basic radiology etc. and refer out to the private sector for specialty procedures or any major surgery, given the veteran has the choice to choose their private sector healthcare provider. An additional option would be to establish some type of exchange where the private sector physician would be able to use the VA facilities, as I prefer the hospital here in Las Vegas over the other hospitals.

    With this type of medical care option it is not necessary to choose one over the other, VA or Non-VA. The VA utilizes the medical facilities already in place, considering urgency and availability, and there wouldn’t be a need to hire more employees as this need would be filled by the Non-VA providers. This type of medical care option would be a better use of the VA Medical budget and provides the veteran and the VA with the best of both worlds.

    I think the details of my idea need to be refined, yes. But as a veteran I would be happy with this type of medical care option.

    Peace Out

  9. finally given a cat scan after getting a primary care team that cared, found spondilitis and scoliosis, have yet to see a bone doctor, been over a year; maybe thats a good thing. Have shrapnel at L5 since 68, got 20% about 3 years ago, still haven’t seen a doctor. Haven’t seen a doctor in years at VA come to think of it. Just quit going to VA, can’t afford the co-pays…waitin on God.

  10. Make me want to cry. 34 my ass! 34 that sued and won, nothing for anyone else who believes their bullshit. They problem lies in 1 they don’t give a shit and 2 since pay is lower for radiologists we get the cream of the crap. They get bonuses with tiers, it goes by how many images are read and to keep in line with the top bonus they won’t read and make no problems or minor abnormality. They throw to the. Side and after a while they get used to it and justify their actions because should be paid more. They have ruined my life and if complain? They will say thanks they will look into and take your information to see any validity and if so the make the correction in their files so not responsible and won’t reply to veterans. What they didn’t touch on much is sending out radiology to companies outside, they bid low getting the contract and don’t have qualified help. Some of these places have offices in China and India and email the information. Sometimes there’s one radiologist and has assistants read and they sign off. Some places people have zero experience in medicine, they teach and they read and doctor signs off. The pay no attention that the doctor is signing off 10 reports an hour. I wish could state crap they have done to me and can’t believe there are people who have zero morals and it’s sickening.

  11. Thete are many things bad & wrong inside the corridors of the VA;

    – lack of urgency
    – lack of quality.people
    – lack of accountability
    – lack of good leadership
    – lack of real oversight
    – lack of open door policy
    – lack in folliwing or knowing policies
    – lack of caring Politicians, includes Trump

    and

    – lack of practicing precision medicine

    What a waste. Too many traitors. Should legal to be lined up and pissed on, then discarded improperly.

    No mercy for punk-ass rotten mf’ers.

    Prez Trump, what type of bs are you going to day at your 2nd State of the Union Address? More damn lies.

    Well overdue in cleaning house in Gov’t Agency’s, Dept’s, and Office’s.

  12. Blaming it on the Radiologist? Spine surgeons and other neurological surgeons have the best reading software for radiographic studies in existence in the U S or shouldn’t have a knife in their hands. Delay for a radiologist reading is bull shit. If the surgeon can’t correctly read the radiograph he shouldn’t have a scalpel in his hands. He is ultimately responsible. Blaming it on a radiologist is scapegoating. Radiologist read radiographs after the fact in emergencies to catch things that may have been missed. A biopsy on my wrist was because of a radiologist’s reading. The ER Orthopod already knew it was broken and suspicious.

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