Sometimes I can only ask in wonderment: "What was that doctor thinking?" Doctors have been performing lumbar punctures for more than a hundred years.
Naturally, a lot is known about this procedure. A lumbar puncture can yield critical diagnostic information and it is very safe, as long as you take basic precautions.
There are only a handful of reasons that preclude performing a lumbar puncture, most of which are uncommon and every first-year medical student is taught what to look for. So, how do you explain it when a neurologist, i.e., someone who has three post-graduate years of specialty training in neurology and who probably has performed hundreds of lumbar punctures, manages to paralyze a patient doing a lumbar puncture?
Sherry Reinhart, married and in her 60’s, was admitted to The Toledo Hospital in May 2008. During this hospitalization, Dr. Purvi Saraiya, a neurologist who is a member of Toledo Clinic, a large multispecialty group, saw Sherry and decided to do a lumbar puncture. But, Sherry had a high level of anticoagulation, which put her at risk of bleeding from the needle that would be placed into her spinal canal as part of the procedure.
No problem. Every doctor knows—or should know— how to handle this situation. Unless the lumbar puncture is an emergency, just stop the anticoagulation and put the procedure off for a few days. Dr. Saraiya went forward anyway. In fact, according to a nurse, Dr. Saraiya stuck Sherry 15 to 20 times and drew back blood every time. Dr. Saraiya ordered some X-rays, but then didn’t come back to see Sherry that day or the next.
Over the next few days, Sherry progressively lost sensation in her legs and then developed weakness. An MRI was not done until 5 days after the procedure, which by that time confirmed a severe bleed that had caused permanent paralysis. Sherry left the hospital in a wheelchair and never got up from it.Continued on the next page