Dr. Vishal Makker just can’t seem to get enough of spinal fusion
surgeries. In fact, he outperformed all other spinal fusion surgeons in
the nation in 2008 and 2009. Makker operated on 61 Medicare patients in
2008 and 2009, and on 16 of those patients he performed more than one
spinal fusion. The
Wall Street Journal uncovered this information when it studied a Medicare database to investigate whether some doctors
defraud or take advantage of the Medicare billing system.
Though Makker defends his record and says all the spinal fusion surgeries
were necessary, authorities disagree. In 2006 the Oregon Medical Board
issued a complaint against Makker for performing “medically unnecessary”
spinal fusions, and in 2010 Providence Portland Medical Center revoked
Makker’s surgical privilieges. Some patients have been unhappy with
Makker’s practices as well–he has been sued for medical malpractice
by 8 patients in 9 years of practice, a rate above average for neurosurgeons.
Among the patients who have filed claims against Dr. Makker is Ronald Johnson,
who was operated on by Dr. Makker 6 times in less than 2 years. When Johnson
was told he needed a 7th surgery, he said he had had enough. Makker then
backpedaled and claimed he was mistaken and that Johnson did not need
the surgery after all. That was enough to make Johnson suspicious. He
sued Makker for medical malpractice for performing “unnecessary
surgeries” last year. The suit was settled privately last month.
For more information, see the
Wall Street Journal article or the