A neurosurgeon employed by SSM Health has been accused of operating on the wrong part of a patient’s brain, causing permanent injuries.
The lawsuit, filed May 26 in St. Louis County Circuit Court, accuses Dr. Gregory Bailey of removing healthy brain tissue instead of a tumor during a surgical procedure at St. Mary’s Health Center in Richmond Heights.
Bailey, according to the lawsuit, was to have performed a “left temporal craniotomy for biopsy and removal of brain tumor” on Michael Krabbe, 55, on Dec. 23. The neurosurgeon instead operated on the left frontal lobe and removed healthy brain tissue, which injured Krabbe, the suit claims. In addition, the lawsuit alleges the neurosurgeon did not perform pre-operative or intraoperative magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI.
The suit seeks costs and damages from Bailey and SSM.
Bailey did not return messages seeking comment. But his employer, SSM Health, “denies the allegations made in the Krabbe lawsuit concerning a wrong-site procedure, and we will vigorously defend our position in the court of law,” SSM spokeswoman Jamie Sherman said in a statement. “Despite the allegations … no such wrong-site surgery occurred at SSM St. Mary’s Health Center.”
“Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with Mr. Krabbe and his family during this difficult time,” Sherman said in a statement.
Bailey first saw Krabbe on Dec. 22, the day before the surgery, said Erica Blume, Krabbe’s attorney. He had “a very large” brain tumor and needed to be operated on “immediately,” she said.
After the surgery, Krabbe was unable to speak or move his right arm or right leg, the lawsuit said.
The day after surgery, he experienced a brain hemorrhage because of to brain injury, the suit alleges.
Krabbe is now unable to normally speak, eat, drink and swallow. He has permanent paralysis in right upper and lower extremities that have resulted in his inability to write or walk normally, the suit claims.
Bailey allegedly assured the family and Krabbe that he had removed the brain tumor. Yet, in the days after the surgery, Bailey told Krabbe’s wife, Barbara Krabbe, that another surgery needed to be performed to insert chemotherapy wafers near the tumor site, the suit claims.
Bailey left a voicemail on Jan. 7, 2015, on Barbara’s cellphone stating that her husband should consider the second surgery to insert the wafers. Bailey contacted Barbara again via a text message Jan. 11 stating her husband would have the best results if the chemotherapy wafers were inserted, according to the suit.
The Krabbes then went to BJC HealthCare for a second opinion.
On or about Jan. 15, 2015, an MRI showed Krabbe still had a tumor in the left temporal lobe with no change in size since his surgery at SSM. The MRI showed Bailey had performed a biopsy in the left frontal lobe, according to the suit.
The lawsuit also alleges that when Bailey found out he had not removed any cancerous tissues, he did not inform Krabbe or his family of the findings.
Krabbe also did not qualify for a clinical trial to treat his brain tumor because of the lack of positive cancer tissue during Bailey’s procedure.
Because Bailey was originally licensed in Missouri in 1983, he has not had any disciplinary action taken against him, according to Chris Cline, a spokesman for the Board of Registration for the Healing Arts.
A review of court records in St. Louis city and St. Louis County, however, shows that Bailey has been sued by at least nine other former patients, including by the spouse of a patient who died after surgery.
At least three of the cases were settled, one ended in a hung jury, and Bailey was dropped as a defendant from another.
Because of the pending litigation, SSM’s Sherman would not comment on the past cases. The spokeswoman, however, defended the neurosurgeon.
“We have complete confidence in Dr. Bailey and the care he delivers to our patients,” Sherman said in a statement.
Bailey is still employed with SSM and still operating on patients, according to the SSM spokeswoman.
In 2013, another SSM neurosurgeon in the same practice, SSM Neurosciences Institute, operated on the wrong side of a woman’s brain. The woman, Regina Turner, was operated on by Dr. Armond Levy.
Levy was not disciplined by the state board charged with overseeing patient safety, but he no longer works at SSM. He now runs his own practice, St. Louis Neurosurgery LLC, in Valley Park.
Samantha Liss • 314-340-8017
@samanthann on Twitter