Botched spinal surgery or injection can cause painful, disabling arachnoiditis

As a Texas medical malpractice lawyer, new clients frequently call about neurological problems with their brain or spinal cord. There are a variety of reasons, from botched surgeries to bad spinal injections.

For example, I recently met with a man who had lower back pain. He had lived with it for a while, but was able to work, do things around the house, and live a normal live, just with lower back pain.

He went to an orthopedic surgeon, who ordered a CT of his lower back. He had some age-related spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal, through which the spinal cord passes) at spinal levels L4 through S1, and spondylolisthesis (a pretty common condition where one vertebra slips forward onto the vertebra below it) at the level of L5-S1.

His surgeon recommended laminectomies for the levels of L4 through S1. A laminectomy is a procedure that decompresses the spine, through the removal of the lamina, which is the back part of a spinal vertebra. The surgeon also recommended fusions with some pedicle screws on both side at the same vertebral levels.

The man walked into Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital for the surgery. He still had lower back pain, but was able to walk around normally and had sensation and feeling everywhere in his body.

As soon as he woke up from the surgery, he realized that he could not feel anything below the waist. Although he could move his legs and feet, he felt nothing, which made walking dangerous and out of the question.

Later, he learned that also had no control over his bowels or bladder, as well as erectile function. Basically, he lost complete motor function over his groin area, in a condition commonly known as saddle anesthesia.

My new client brought me his medical records and radiology reports, and we reviewed them together. Something immediately caught my eye in the operative report. It said, “There was an incidental durotomy at the L5-S1 level on the left side that was repaired in a watertight fashion.”

I then compared reports from MRI scans done before the surgery and after the surgery. The MRI after the surgery had a finding of arachnoiditis at L5-S1. That finding was absent from the MRI done before the surgery.

Together, these three records are a smoking gun that proves that the surgeon’s negligence caused my clients mistake.

What is a durotomy?

A durotomy is the word used to describe a tear of the dura mater, the thick, durable outer protective layer of the spinal cord and brain. The surgeon I discussed above used the phrase “incidental durotomy,” which means that it was small and easily repaired during the surgery.

The MRI scans tell a different story, though, one about arachnoiditis.

What is arachnoiditis?

The arachnoid mater is the layer next to the dura mater. The subarachnoid space, which holds the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is the next layer below the arachnoid mater.

Arachnoiditis is inflammation of the arachnoid mater, which can be caused by spinal cord trauma, a botched back surgery, or bad spinal injections. It is a very painful and debilitating syndrome that can have a variety of combinations of back, buttock, and leg pain, numbness and muscle weakness. Many patients with arachnoiditis, like my client have widespread loss of feeling from their groin and into their legs and feet. This is called dysesthesia.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for arachnoiditis. There are, though, some medical treatments that can help patients with this disabling illness. In a medical negligence lawsuit, we would seek recovery for things like physical therapy, occupational therapy, wheelchairs and other devices to help with mobility, prescription drugs and other devices for pain management, surgical procedures, and home health nursing care.

We are here to help

If you or someone you care for is experiencing arachnoiditis or another spinal cord or brain injury because of poor care by a surgeon, doctor, or hospital, we are only a phone call away. Call 281-580-8800 for a free consultation with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer at Painter Law Firm in Houston, Texas.


Attorney Robert Painter represents patients and their families in medical malpractice and wrongful death cases, at Painter Law Firm, in Houston, Texas. Licensed in Texas, he files medical negligence lawsuits in Texas state and federal courts, and frequently works on complex health care cases with attorneys licensed in other states.

Robert Painter
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Robert Painter

Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm Medical Malpractice Attorneys in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas. Contact him for a free consultation and strategy session by calling 281-580-8800 or emailing him right now.