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Cedars-Sinai Trial: Witness Says Procedure Was 'Too Risky'

The wife of a man who became a quadriplegic after receiving injections close to the skull is suing the doctors and the hospital.

Patch file photo.
Patch file photo.

By BILL HETHERMAN
City News Service

Testifying in a medical negligence case, a pain management expert said today that a procedure involving injections into the two vertebrae closest to the skull is so risky that few physicians attempt it.

Taking the stand on behalf of the wife of a Newbury Park man allegedly left a quadriplegic from the procedure performed at the Cedars-Sinai Pain Center in 2010, anesthesiologist David Goldstein said many in the medical profession believe it should never be done anywhere in the world.

"It's just a part of the body too dangerous to approach with needles," Goldstein said. "You can create a lot of damage."

If done incorrectly, the procedure can cause seizures and even death, said Goldstein, who practices in Farmington, N.M.

Michael Markow and his wife, Francine, sued Cedars-Sinai Medical Center as well as anesthesiologists Howard Rosner and Nirmala Thejomurthy in January 2012. Michael Markow first sought help from Rosner, a pain management anesthesiologist, at the Cedars-Sinai Pain Center in 2006 because of severe neck pain, according to court papers filed by the couple's lawyers.

The suit alleges Markow underwent a "high-risk" treatment involving "bilateral deep and dangerous injections" on Nov. 11, 2010, in the C1 and C2 cervical vertebrae. There are seven such vertebrae, with the lowest numbered being those nearest the skull.

According to the plaintiffs' court papers, Rosner agreed that the procedure "is not taught in any medical school in the United States and is not part of any training of pain management specialists."

Defense attorneys deny any breach of the standard of medical care occurred in Markow's case and that there is no proof his condition was caused by the conduct of the doctors.

Questioned by 63-year-old Francine Markow's attorney, Howard Kapp, Goldstein used a plastic model of the human spine to show jurors the locations of the C1 and C2 vertebrae and their proximity to the skull. During his testimony, he used the word "dangerous" several times when referring to the procedure performed on Michael Markow.

The suit also alleges Rosner did not adequately inform Markow, now 67, of the risks of the course of action before going forward with it. According to Goldstein, Rosner had an obligation to make sure Markow knew what could happen.

"I think the burden falls on the physician to make sure the patient knows exactly what he's getting into," Goldstein said.

Francine Markow is suing for loss of consortium.

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