Connelly v. Presbyterian Homes, Inc., IAB Hearing No. 1289709 (June 11, 2010)
Claimant filed a Petition to Determine Compensation Due alleging that she injured her low back in a work-related accident on July 7, 2006. She sought reimbursement for two surgical procedures, replacement of her spinal cord stimulator in 2007 and lumbar fusion surgery performed by Dr. Bruce Rudin in 2009. Employer agreed that a work accident occurred on July 7, 2006 resulting in a lumbar strain, but only paid limited medical expenses related to that injury. Employer denied that the surgical procedures in 2007 and 2009 were causally related to the work accident or injury. Claimant had an injury to her lumbar spine in 1995, a disc herniation at L4-5, for which she previously underwent surgery in 1996 and 1998. In 2003, a spinal cord stimulator was initially implanted.
The Board denied Claimant's Petition holding that she did not meet her burden of proving that the replacement spinal cord implant in 2007, or the fusion surgery in 2009, were causally related to the work accident on July 7, 2006. The Board found the testimony of Employer's medical expert, Dr. Lawrence Piccioni, persuasive that Claimant's lumbar sprain injury had essentially resolved and she had returned to her baseline condition by the time that he examined her six weeks after the July 2006 accident. Further, the Board found the testimony of Dr. Matthew Eppley persuasive that the fusion surgery in 2009 was not causally related to the 2006 work accident because there was a long gap, approximately two years, between the work accident and Dr. Rudin's surgical recommendation. Further, there was a seven month gap in treatment between Claimant's visit to Dr. Piccioni and Claimant's next treatment at Occupational Health in March 2007. Finally, since the 2009 surgery addressed a non-union at the same level where fusion was previously attempted, the Board found Dr. Eppley's testimony persuasive that the need for surgery in 2009 was more likely Claimant's failed back syndrome.