Although his lawyer insists Dr. David C. Arndt is a skilled surgeon, several patients say he botched their operations, leaving them with disabling injuries.
“I’ve been really screwed up since the operation,” said Robert Hoog, 57, of Chester, N.H., who underwent spinal fusion surgery by Arndt at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Dec., 1999. “He made a mistake,” Hoog said. “He even called me up after the operation to say he was sorry.” Arndt had his license suspended Aug. 7 for leaving an operating room at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge to go to the bank to cash a check.
Hoog, however, is one of several patients to come forward to question Arndt’s competency. In a lawsuit to be filed in Suffolk Superior Court, Hoog’s lawyer, Neil Cohen, will charge that Arndt failed to properly attach a drainage tube he had inserted into the patient’s back during spinal surgery. As a result, the tube became dislodged when an orderly attempted to change the patient’s bedsheet, and it failed to drain fluids properly, Cohen said. “No one noticed it for a day or two,” he said. “He ended up with a significant hematoma which ruined the surgery. It was a backup of blood that compromised the healing process. He’s a mess as a result.”
Hoog is now disabled and seeing a pain specialist. He said other surgeons have said it would be too risky to go back in and repair the damage. “I’m stuck with it,” he said. Hoog said Arndt called him up about a year after the operation to apologize. “He said, ‘I’m awful sorry this happened. I always sew the tube in. I don’t know why I didn’t do it this time,’ ” Hoog said. “He was very apologetic. He said it was the second time that a health-care worker had ruined a perfectly good operation on me.” Hoog said that if the tube had been properly attached, “I’d be back at work and I wouldn’t have all these problems today. I wonder why he didn’t sew it in. Did he have to run out to the bank?”
The suit is one of two about to be filed against Arndt charging medical malpractice.
Another, to be filed in Middlesex Superior Court by attorney Andrew Meyer, says patient Raymond LaVallee-Davidson of Skowhegan, Maine, suffered severe complications following an 18-hour spinal fusion operation that was never completed. LaVallee-Davidson said he came out of the operation with a severe lung infection, a high fever and seizures. Bruce LaVallee-Davidson, Raymond’s domestic partner, said he was told the following day by Arndt that “he hadn’t finished. In a couple of days he would have to go back in and finish up attaching the rods.” Bruce LaVallee-Davidson said he was puzzled as to why Arndt wasn’t able to finish. He said the operation was supposed to take 12 hours, but ended up lasting 18. Six months later, after the complications were cleared up, Arndt was scheduled to go back and complete the job, but failed to show up for the surgery. He later said he had overslept, the lawsuit charges.
Another patient, Mike Roy, said he underwent spinal fusion surgery with Arndt about five years ago. “It was supposed to run eight hours,” he said. “I was on the table 14 hours. I sustained nerve damage on my left side and a scar on my forehead from lying in that position for so long,” he said.