Woman Discovers Epidural Needle Lodged in Her Spine 14 Years After Giving Birth

Amy Bright gave birth to her son via C-section in 2003 at Naval Hospital Jacksonville. During the procedure, she received spinal anesthesia. However, soon after childbirth, she started experiencing excruciating back pain.

“It feels like fire, like a poker next to my tailbone,” Bright shared. “And then, on occasion, it shoots down the left side of my leg, like my calf, and then down into my foot.”

After enduring years of misdiagnoses and pain medication, Bright finally received a CT scan last November, revealing the source of her agony. It turned out that a portion of a needle, approximately 3 centimeters (an inch) long, had broken off and was lodged in her spine. Two centimeters of the needle were inside the space surrounding her spinal cord.

Enraged by the discovery, Bright is now suing the hospital for malpractice. “It’s just devastating. It’s absolutely wrong what they did to me,” she expressed at a press conference. “Who doesn’t tell you? Who does that?”

Naval Hospital Jacksonville declined to comment, directing inquiries to the Justice Department.

Not only is the needle causing unimaginable pain, but Bright also faces the risk of paralysis. “The needle is actually touching the nerve that leads to my left leg, so imagine going through daily life, walking down the road, not knowing if you’re going to fall,” she explained. “If it just moves a little bit, I could be paralyzed.”

Bright’s lawyer, Sean B. Cronin, revealed that experts suggested doctors must have known that something went wrong during the procedure. “These needles are about 9 or 10 centimeters, and they have a tip on the end that the provider is supposed to inspect to make sure they have the whole needle,” Cronin explained. “They knew this was in her, according to our experts, because so much of the needle was missing. And the safety tip is still in her.”

Even for Cronin, who specializes in medical malpractice, this is an unprecedented case. He stated, “I’ve never seen a piece of needle that’s broken off and left in someone’s spine. It’s outrageous.”

Dr. McCallum R. Hoyt, chair of the American Society of Anesthesiologists Committee on Obstetric Anesthesia, confirmed that she has never encountered a broken spinal needle before. The potential complications would vary depending on the location of the needle.

Clarifying the case, Dr. Hoyt emphasized that it did not involve an epidural needle, as some outlets reported, but rather a spinal needle. She highlighted the need for the anesthesia provider to be cautious and not overly forceful in advancing the needle if there is significant resistance. She further explained that epidural needles are not inserted into the fluid surrounding the spinal cord, whereas spinal needles are.

“The difference in advancing through ligament vs. bone is easily detectable,” Dr. Hoyt concluded.

Despite the challenges, Amy Bright is determined to seek justice for the years of pain and suffering she has endured.