Any time a patient goes to surgery, there are risks. Some risks, like damage to nearby structures, are unavoidable. Others, like medical malpractice, can be avoided with proper care.
Medically-indicated care versus unnecessary care
With these risks in mind, it’s critical for physicians and surgeons only to perform surgeries that are medical indicated and necessary. While the doctor stands to make money on these types of procedures, they pose an unnecessary risk to patients.
Plus, the standard of care requires doctors to explain the risks and benefits of any proposed treatment or procedure, comparing them to the risks and benefits of alternative treatments and the option of doing nothing. This is called the informed consent process. Would a reasonable patient consent to a procedure if the doctor explained that there was no evidence that it was necessary? I don’t think so.
Houston Methodist Hospital affiliated pain management doctor disciplinary action
The Texas Medical Board recently took a rare disciplinary action against Kenneth Mark Alo, M.D., a Houston pain management doctor, for performing an unnecessary procedure on a patient.
According to his public profile with the Board, Dr. Alo was initially licensed in Texas in 1990. Since 1994, he’s been board certified by the American Board of Anesthesiology and reports a primary specialty in the area of pain management. Dr. Alo currently has staff privileges at two ambulatory surgery centers, Hermann Drive Surgical Center and Southwest Freeway Surgical Center, plus Houston Methodist Hospital. In fact, at Methodist, Dr. Alo is an assistant clinical member of the hospital’s Research Institute.
On August 16, 2019, Dr. Alo and the Texas Medical Board entered into an agreed order, based on board charges that Dr. Alo violated the standard of care for a patient by providing treatment that wasn’t appropriate and that placed the patient at risk.
According to the agreed order:
• The patient had no physiological abnormalities
• The patient’s diagnostic radiology imaging studies demonstrated normal findings consistent with age
• There was no indication for any procedure on the patient’s spine
Despite these facts, Dr. Alo proceeded with an invasive treatment when there were no structural abnormalities in the patient to warrant it. It’s unclear from the Board order what the treatment was, but the word “invasive” means that it involved something that penetrated the skin. Dr. Alo is an anesthesiology-trained pain management physician. Many doctors who practice in his field perform non-surgical invasive pain treatments including facet joint ablation, epidural steroid injections (ESI), facet joint injection, medical branch block, regenerative injection, selective nerve root block, and transforaminal epidural steroid injection.
The Texas Medical Board agreed order requires special oversight and monitoring of Dr. Alo’s practice for two years by a designated physician monitor. Every three months, the physician monitor will review the medical and billing records of at least 30 of Dr. Alo’s patients. The monitor will prepare written reports identifying any perceived deficiencies and any making recommendations to improve Dr. Alo’s practice of medicine. If the monitor decides it’s warranted, he or she can recommend that Dr. Alo submit to a competency evaluation.
Additionally, within one year of the Board’s agreed order, Dr. Alo must complete continuing medical education on medical recordkeeping, informed consent, spinal surgery, ethics, and proper billing methods.
Finally, during the term of the agreed order, Dr. Alo has to give a copy of it to all hospitals, nursing homes, treatment facilities, and other health care entities where he has or applies for medical staff privileges.
If you’ve been seriously injured because of a surgery or procedure that you later found out wasn’t medically necessary, then contact an experienced top-rated Houston, Texas medical malpractice lawyer for help in investigating your potential case.