On a Monday, the defendant, an orthopedic surgeon, performed a right total knee replacement (TKA) on the plaintiff. During the three days following the procedure, the plaintiff complained of pain in her calf, foot and ankle; had foot drop; and complained of decreased sensation on the top of her foot. The defendant attributed those symptoms to a stretching of the peroneal nerve during the TKA, which is a known and recognized complication.
Early Friday morning the plaintiff’s right foot became cold, blue and pulseless. Vascular surgery was contacted and performed an emergency repair procedure and a four-compartment fasciotomy. During the procedure, the vascular surgeon found “a laceration involving 70% of the diameter of the popliteal artery with fresh thrombus.” He removed the thrombus and debrided some muscle and tissue in the right lower leg but did not need to amputate any portion of the foot or any toes.
Plaintiff alleged that the defendant lacerated the popliteal artery during the TKA and failed to detect the injury intraoperatively. Plaintiff also alleged that the neurological symptoms that the plaintiff experienced postoperatively resulted from decreased blood flow to the right leg, that the defendant should have suspected developing ischemia, and that the defendant accordingly should have consulted vascular surgery.
The defendant argued that, during the procedure, after noticing that the posterior capsule behind the tibia was cut, he had the tourniquet deflated to check for bleeding behind the knee joint but found none. He therefore re-inflated the tourniquet and completed the TKA. The defendant conceded that he partially lacerated the popliteal artery during the procedure but maintained that the trauma to the popliteal artery caused it to vasospasm closed to prevent any active bleeding. The defendant further argued that, postoperatively, the plaintiff’s symptoms were consistent with a peroneal nerve palsy and that at no point until early Friday morning were there any signs or symptoms of poor circulation to the right foot.
Plaintiff asked the jury for $2,411,000 in damages. The jury deliberated for one hour before returning a verdict for the defendant.