Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Woman says surgery causing facial pain

By Phil Ray, pray@altoonamirror.com

An Altoona woman who claims she has experienced constant pain in her face and head for years has sued her doctor, alleging he clipped a nerve when he operated on her in 2003.

A Blair County civil court jury is being asked this week to resolve the dispute pitting the patient, Sandra Saive, against the doctor, Ramesh Agarwal, an otolaryngologist who has practiced in the Altoona area for more than two decades.

The doctor says he was not negligent in treating the woman, who came to him with sinus problems. While operating on her, the doctor said, he noticed a growth in the sinus and performed a biopsy to determine if it was cancerous.

As it turned out, the supposed growth was determined to be an ‘‘abnormal extension of a nerve,’’ according an attorney for the doctor.

The trial began Monday in the courtroom of Judge Elizabeth Doyle before a jury of six men and six women.

Court activity is suspended today because of the primary election, but will resume Wednesday. Doyle has set aside the entire week for the medical malpractice case.

Attorney Matthew Wimer of Pittsburgh, representing Saive, said his client suffered from allergies each spring, which brought on headaches and other problems. Her problems worsened in 2002 when she experienced head pain and her jaw locked up.

During the surgery, Wimer said, Agarwal was able to correct the problem in Saive’s sinus but he also noticed the growth. The laboratory at the former Bon Secours Hospital indicated the biopsied material included ‘‘irregular pieces of nerve tissue.’’

Beginning immediately after the operation, Saive said she had numbness and facial pain triggered by eating, by holding her head in a certain position, or by touch.

She has undergone three surgeries and pain therapy since the operation.

The attorney representing the doctor, John Helsey of Pittsburgh, said, ‘‘(The growth) turned out not to be malignant, but Dr. Agarwal did not know that at the time of surgery.’’

He said the doctor corrected the problems with Saive’s sinus and then biopsied the growth.

‘‘He did what he was supposed to do,’’ said Helsey.

Just because the patient ended up injured does not mean the doctor was negligent in his treatment, Helsey argued.

He asked the jury to find in Agarwal’s favor and not to decide the case based on ‘‘sympathy.’’

source : www.altoonamirror.com

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