Is there a basis for legal action here, medical malpractice?

Posted by jamesboots @jamesboots, Jun 4 11:36am

Hi. My mother broke her leg 20 years ago while playing softball. They put a rod in it and she was fine, and kept playing softball until now. Fast forward to 2 years ago, while playing ball, her ankle started to hurt, and after going to the doctor, they didn’t know what was wrong but after x-rays they saw that the screws holding in the rod had broken. So they did a surgery to take them out and replace them. The pain got even worse after that, it felt like her leg was broken again. Some time later they did another surgery and took the entire rod out of her leg and replaced it. The pain got even worse, nothing was helping at all, she had crutches and could barely leave bed. Another appointment and apparently she has an infection in her bone due to the drainage site from the previous surgeries. Another surgery to treat the infection, healed fine. The pain hasn’t changed whatsoever and is still agonizing. And now a fourth surgery to take the rod out AGAIN and put in a slightly larger one because why not? The pain is the worst it’s ever been and her leg is completely numb.

What do we do?

Interested in more discussions like this? Go to the Bones, Joints & Muscles Support Group.

@jamesboots What an ordeal for your Mom, it is great you are trying to find help for her. Your Mom is still in an acute situation, needing to get the problems resolved before you think about legal action.

First, let me tell you that post-op infections after orthopedic surgery involving hardware are not rare, and it sounds like the surgical team probably did provide standard care. But, the ongoing pain, and now numbness, point to other problems. Has she considered a consult with a more specialized surgeon? I am thinking an orthopedic trauma surgeon, in company with a nerve evaluation might be the next step.

Do you have access to that kind of care near you?


@jamesboots James, Hello and welcome to Connect. I can understand how frustrating it is for your mom to have had so many surgeries and problems. Members here cannot give legal or medical advice.

You may want to seek another opinion from an orthopedic trauma surgeon. That is a subspecialty of orthopedic surgery. 4 years ago, I shattered my ankle and had 3 surgeries, first an external fixation cage for a couple weeks put on at a local hospital, then internal fixation at Mayo with the Ortho trauma surgeon, and a year later, I had the hardware removed because it was the cause of pain for me even though my bones had healed. I had 2 plates on the front and side of the tibia, and a screw inside the fibula. I was able to have all of that removed and return to being metal free. My body reacts to metals which cause pain for me, so this improves my health a lot. I did not have any infection, but that can be serious, and you have to clear an infection which often means further surgery to debride it, or the patient risks loosing a limb.

In addition to healing bones, there can be issues with tendons and ligaments that can cause pain like living with a perpetual sprain. Even 4 years after my injury, I'm still improving, and a big improvement came after I figured out how to stretch all my scar tissue to release the uneven tension on my ankle. My physical therapist taught me about Myofascial Release. Essentially, the tight scar tissue was binding to the bones, causing pressure in my ankle joint which would then periodically collapse when I was stepping off of my foot and pinch at the front of the joint. By loosening all the binding fascia and scar tissue, the muscles can be strengthened to hold the joint better with better function and it doesn't collapse anymore. I don't know if your mom had a broken ankle or if you are referring to leg bones, but the ankle motion is very complex.

Here is our discussion on Myofascial release.
Neuropathy - "Myofascial Release Therapy (MFR) for treating compression and pain"

4 years ago, I didn't know where to have my ankle repaired and I discussed it with my podiatrist who thought coming to Mayo would be a good idea. I had already been a patient there for spine surgery, and I contacted my spine surgeon and asked for a recommendation. I saw Dr. Sems an orthopedic trauma specialist at Mayo Rochester who operated on my ankle. Some of what Dr. Sems does is to use external fixation to remodel bones and even extend bones or lengthen and reshape bones, such as happens with skeletal deformities. If your mom's situation of needing bigger and bigger hardware because her bone is weakened or even having some bone loss because of an infection, Dr. Sems would be a good surgeon to ask about the possibility of reforming bone over time. Mayo has a Limb Clinic.

If your mom has insurance that would be accepted at Mayo, she could get a consultation there. You can find insurance information at It's also worth a call to the billing department to confirm insurance acceptance.

If she would like to initiate an appointment request, she may use this link.

I hope all this information is helpful for your mom.
All my best,


I would just add for your thoughts Reactive Arthritis - which is similar to an acute onset, really bad version of Rheumatoid Arthritis - and is so named because it develops in reaction to an infection or other insult- but usually an infection. My son got it in reaction to infection following knee surgery. He went from moving like a 25 yr old to a 90 yr old in 48 hours. He was fortunately in a medical center that had a unit just for surgical issues. So the infectious control doc knew what he was looking at. It’s not always easy to simultaneously treat infection and turn down an overactive immune system. But it can be done.

No idea if thats helpful or sounds like it’s worth discussing with your Mom’s doc. Just sharing..


Most likely some condition, in addition to the initial incident and subsequent going on.

One person mentioned arthritis. That makes a lot of sense. Either that, or some other additional problem that is exacerbating what the initial incident and surgeries caused.


Contact an attorney to discuss your situation. My own experience has shown me that suing for malpractice is very difficult due to the required waivers patients must sign pre-surgery.

Please sign in or register to post a reply.