New Hampshire Surgery Patients Exposed to Fatal Brain Disease

Medical malpractice lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm report that eight patients in New Hampshire may have been exposed to a rare brain condition after undergoing neurosurgery in a Manchester hospital. The exposure is likely the tragic result of surgery on a ninth patient who recently died from a form of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

The rare brain condition is similar to mad-cow disease in cattle, however Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is not linked to beef consumption. The neurosurgery patient diagnosed with the condition suffered from the sporadic form, which has no known treatment and is almost always fatal. The disease manifests spontaneously, without any known source, causing symptoms such as personality changes, sudden jerky movements, failing memory, and blindness.

All nine potentially exposed patients were admitted to Catholic Medical Center in Manchester, New Hampshire to undergo neurosurgery around May 2013. The ninth patient diagnosed with the condition was readmitted to the hospital due to symptoms of rapidly advancing dementia and ultimately passed away from Creutzfeldt-Jakob in August.

The disease can be spread through surgical tools which have not been sterilized to kill the protein that causes the disease (it can also be caused by a genetic mutation). Regular sterilization techniques do not kill the abnormal protein. A spokesperson for Catholic Medical Center stated that surgeons at the hospital did in fact use the same surgical tools in all nine patients, and five other patients in other states may have been operated on using infected tools. Hospitals often rent surgical tools to medical centers in other states and areas.

All neurosurgeries at Catholic Medical have been canceled in light of this issue, until an autopsy report confirms the patient died of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Health officials stress that the risk of infection is extremely low, but they are trying to inform the eight patients as best they can. Fortunately, there is no risk to other patients at Catholic Medical or to the general New Hampshire public. About 200 people are diagnosed with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease every year in the United States.

In related malpractice news, an orthopedic surgeon recently suspended his license after admitting to an array of fraud charges, such as failing to administer proper care, failing to maintain accurate records, and submitting bills for former patients for which he was not entitled payments. In total, he was charged with about 250 counts of medical misconduct by the New York Office of Professional Medical Conduct.

Hundreds of patients have filed lawsuits against Dr. Spyros Panos, formally of the Mid Hudson Medical Group, for botched or unnecessary surgeries. Some even allege that Panos merely pretended to perform surgeries on them so he could bill and receive compensation from Medicaid and Medicare. Panos was terminated from Mid Hudson in 2011 and is currently subject to an investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The director of medical ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center emphasizes his concern that the investigations are not extending to others who worked with Panos. Surgeons cannot perform this volume of procedures for so long without the cooperation of many other people. Panos was scheduling up to 22 surgeries a day – the average orthopedic surgeon schedules no more than 32 per month. Panos still has a medical license to practice in the state of Virginia.

Medical malpractice attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm have decades of experience advocating on behalf of those victimized by greedy doctors like Panos, who take advantage of trusting patients in order to reap illegal funds. If you or a loved one was seriously injured through the poor decisions of a medical team, you have important legal rights, and may be entitled to compensation for any medical bills, lost wages, continued care, or wrongful death.