A U.S. Army veteran has launched a $10-million lawsuit after an allegedly botched surgery forced him to have his penis amputated.
Michael D. Nash, 61, underwent circumcision and penile implant surgery — usually used to treat erectile dysfunction — at the Veterans Administration hospital in Lexington, Ky., on Oct. 28, 2010.
The lawsuit, filed against the federal government Tuesday, alleges a nurse put an ice pack on his penis to ease the swelling in post-op, and left it there for 19 hours straight. Nash was on heavy pain medication and only partially conscious at the time.
His lawyer, Lawrence Jones, says the ice pack should have been removed after two to four hours.
As a result, Nash's penis developed frostbite and gangrene, and he had to have five inches removed, Jones said.
"If you can envision, on Day 1, you're looking at something red and irritated and burning, and over the course of the day, it goes to something that turns to a purplish colour that then turns to fully black," Jones said, adding his client was left with "this dark black rotting piece of the most important part of the body."
Dr. Tobias Steen Kohler, a urologist from the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine who specializes in penile implant surgery, said ice packs are usually used a half-hour on and a half-hour off.
But, he said, it seems unusual it would cause that kind of reaction, because an ice pack eventually gets warm.
"I'm guessing there's more to this case than meets the eye," he said. "The penis has a pretty healthy blood supply, so it would be pretty tough to cause that kind of injury."
Infections stemming from penile implant surgeries are very rare, he said. It happens in about 1-2% of cases, and 3-4% for patients with diabetes. It's usually caused by a bacterial infection, which is a known risk with any implantation, he said.
"Penile gangrene and amputation is exceedingly rare and typically occurs in the context of infection of severe diabetes," Kohler said.
Nash is diabetic, his lawyer confirmed.
Nash's lawsuit blames the "inexperienced and/or unqualified operators, administrators, employees, agents and staff" for his amputation.
"This is the clearest case of medical negligence that I've seen in my career," Jones said.
None of Jones' allegations or those in the lawsuit have been proven in court.
Jones said Nash is planning to undergo reconstructive surgery.
"Not for sexual purposes. He's been of robbed of his manhood. He can't even urinate correctly," Jones said. "There's obviously a sexual component as well. He's a single man with a girlfriend. He is unable to engage in sexual intercourse."
A message left with the Veterans Administration media line wasn't immediately returned. The hospital has 20 days to issue a response to the lawsuit.