An infectious disease expert advises on a case involving a spinal surgery patient who alleges that he acquired MRSA from his surgeon. Defendant doctor recommended spine surgery for plaintiff. Plaintiff alleges he promised immediate pain relief and that the surgery was minimally invasive. The hospital stay was estimated to be two or three days. Following the surgery, the plaintiff spent eight days in a coma in intensive care. The plaintiff’s pain continued and got worse. He underwent a total of five surgeries and claims he still is essentially immobilized by pain.
Plaintiff alleges negligence in the performance of the surgeries and that he did not provide informed consent for what turned out to be experimental procedures involving medical devices supplied by a company for which the defendant worked.
Additionally, plaintiff acquired the bacteria, methicillin resistant Staph aureus (MRSA) infection during the third surgery, he said. The defendant’s dog had MRSA at the time, and defendant frequently exposed his patients, including plaintiff, to the dog. The defendant had a habit of keeping the dog unclean, and permitted the animal to wander freely about his medical practice, the plaintiff alleges.
Question(s) For Expert Witness
- 1. How is MRSA colonized?
- 2. Could the plaintiff have contracted it from the defendant doctor?
Expert Witness Response
MRSA asymptomatically colonizes a significant percentage of the population of the United States. These individuals are “carriers” of MRSA. MRSA can spontaneously colonize individuals and, will, in many cases, spontaneously disappear after a period of time ranging from weeks to years.
A vast majority of the persons who are colonized with MRSA are asymptomatic, meaning they have no symptoms and, as such, would have no reason to know they are a carrier. In most of the cases where an MRSA infection develops in a patient in a hospital setting, the majority of these patients are colonized with MRSA before they even enter the hospital setting.
If one is a carrier of MRSA it does not necessarily mean they transmitted it to anyone. If a surgeon was a carrier of MRSA, it is highly unlikely that he could transmit it due to precautions taken including, but not limited to, administration of antibiotics to the patient, the meticulous aseptic techniques used by the surgeon, the sterile environment in the operating room and efforts made by the infection control personnel to prevent such transmission.
If current positive testing of the defendant doctor showed that he is a carrier of MRSA, to a medical probability, it would not indicate he was colonized at the time he interacted with any of the patients he treated prior to the date of this affidavit. If current positive testing showed that he is a carrier of MRSA, to a medical probability, it would not indicate that a patient whom he treated prior to this affidavit was colonized with or infected by MRSA as a result of his care and treatment of them.
There are innumerable possible sources of MRSA colonization and infection for each of these patients including, the patients themselves having been carriers of MRSA (and they might not even have known it), family members who visited them having it, visitors who visited them having it or, that they contracted it from others after their release from the hospital.