A fan of spinal fusion surgeries

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 privileges. 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 Oregonian article.