Close Menu

Florida Woman Suffers From Broken Epidural Needle in Spine for 14 Years


The day that a family welcomes a new baby into the household is usually a joyous one, unless the doctors delivering the baby make a grave mistake.

Unfortunately, that’s allegedly what happened to one Florida woman, who had an epidural needle left in her spine. As a result, for more than 14 years, she suffered from constant back and leg pain; which she described as feeling as though a poker next to her tailbone was shooting pain down the side of her leg and into her foot.

What Happened In This Case?

The recent CT scan she received revealed a broken, three-centimeter epidural needle lodged in her spine. Her medical records indicate that Naval Hospital in Jacksonville had an “unsuccessful spinal needle attempt” back in September of 2003. The presence of the needle allegedly caused permanent nerve damage; amongst other complications.

What Causes An Epidural To Break Off?

According to the science, it is more likely to break a small-gauge spinal needle if you place it too deep into the skin. Another contributing factor can be any change of direction made by the anesthesiologist, where the needle tip is still distal to the tip of the introducer. This can lead to a fracture because of how small the needle is. Therefore, all spinal needles need to be completely withdrawn from a patient before any change of direction is made. The very small gauge spinal needles are reportedly the most fragile when it comes to this practice.

Other causes of a broken epidural include the catheter slicing into two pieces while withdrawing, the application of undue force resulting in breakage, a manufacturing defect of the catheter, heavy contact between the tip of the epidural needle and a bony surface, and catheter damage due to excessive insertion.

The Effects of Broken Epidural Needles

Nerve damage is, unfortunately, not the only complication that can result from issues with epidurals. Other complications include backaches, epidural abscesses, epidural hematomas, headaches from dural fractures, meningitis, osteomyelitis, and spinal injuries. If the broken fragment remains in there for at least three weeks, it can become walled off by fibrous tissue.

What Is The Proper Protocol If The Needle Breaks?

If the epidural needle does break off in the spine, it is fairly obvious to the anesthesiologist, and the presence of the fragment should be properly documented and informed to both the surgical team and patient. Leaving the broken fragment, leading them to suffer from medical complications as a result is malpractice.

Florida Birth Injury Attorneys

At the law offices of Lavalle, Brown & Ronan, our Boca Raton birth injury attorneys have extensive experience assisting families who have been the victims of medical malpractice. Contact us today for a free consultation and find out how we can help.

For more information and in depth analysis, please contact Attorney Ken Ronan at and Case Manager Richard Bagdasarian at


Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google Plus