Jury: Concurrent surgery not the reason for patient’s quadriplegia

A Boston jury has found that an orthopedic surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital did not inform a patient that he planned to operate on two patients at the same time, but concluded that the concurrent surgery did not cause the man’s paralysis.

The jury earlier this week did not award any financial damages to Tony Meng, a 45-year-old financial analyst, who was left a quadriplegic following the surgery, according to The Boston Globe.

Meng testified in court that his surgeon, Kirkham Wood, M.D., did not tell him that he planned to juggle two surgeries at the same time, in a practice known as concurrent surgery. Meng said he would not have consented to the surgery if he had known, the Globe said.

“We’re glad we were able to show through the verdict that concurrent surgery is not acceptable and that it’s wrong not to tell the patient if you’re going to be in two operating rooms at the same time,’’ Meng’s attorney, Bill Thompson, told the newspaper, but said he was disappointed the jury did not agree his client’s injuries were connected to the practice.

The Globe had highlighted Meng’s case in a series of articles it published last year that brought public attention to the practice of concurrent or simultaneous surgery, where the surgeon performs two surgeries on two different patients in two different operating rooms at the same time, turning over parts of the surgery to assistants. The practice is particularly common in major teaching hospitals.

New guidelines were released last April by the American College of Surgeons that stress informed consent so a patient knows that a surgeon will be performing concurrent surgeries.

A U.S. Senate committee investigated the practice of concurrent surgeries in the nation's hospitals and in December released a report (PDF) urging hospitals to prohibit the practice of allowing one surgeon to manage two operations, where critical parts occur at the same time.

In the Boston case, a judge ruled jurors could only consider whether the medical treatment that Meng received, including the fact his surgeon oversaw two operating rooms simultaneously, deviated from established standards of care and caused his paralysis, the Globe said.

Wood left Mass General in 2015 to become a professor of orthopedic surgery at Stanford University.