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Surgeon Accused of Slapping Patients' Butts Speaks Out

The orthopedic surgeon who allegedly slapped anesthetized patients on the buttocks and made sexually-charged jokes in the OR has responded to the accusations by denying any wrongdoing.

In 2014, surgical staff at St. Joseph's Hospital Health Center in Syracuse, N.Y., alleged that Michael Clarke, MD, slapped patients on the buttocks and hips hard enough to leave red marks and hand prints, and said he made crude comments about the patients.

In a statement released through his attorney, Dr. Clarke claims he has an "extroverted sense of humor" and admitted his comments may have offended some people. He also claims to have stopped using suggestive language when complaints were filed.

With regard to the alleged butt-slapping, Dr. Clarke says he performed a single slap on the incision site to ensure he didn't start surgery until the anesthesia took full effect. He also denies using derogatory language when referring to patients.

St. Joseph's suspended Dr. Clarke in February 2014, prompting him to take his cases to nearby Crouse Hospital. In October 2014, St. Joseph's reinstated the embattled surgeon, but Dr. Clarke has reportedly not returned to its ORs.

"Dr Clarke has not performed any surgeries at St. Joseph's since February of 2014," says a St. Joseph's spokesman. "Our concern has always been, and remains, the safety, health, and dignity of our employees, patients, and their families. We believe the steps taken at St. Joseph's surrounding this matter were taken with those concerns in mind."

Dr. Clarke will not face criminal charges because the Onondaga County (N.Y.) District Attorney's office could not prove his actions were sexual in nature, and because no patients came forward to claim they were victimized. He will reportedly instead pay a $10,000 fine and complete a week of state-mandated anger management therapy.

Daniel Cook

Oral Steroids Provide Little Help for Patients with Sciatica

For patients with sciatica (acute radiculopathy) caused by a herniated lumbar disk, a regimen of oral steroids may slightly improve function, but it has no discernible effect on pain, according to a study published in JAMA.

A total of 269 patients were given either a tapering 15-day course of oral prednisone (5 days each of 60 mg, 40 mg and 20 mg), or a placebo. Based on the Oswestry Disability Index, the prednisone group showed a modestly better improvement in function after 3 weeks and after 52 weeks, but no improvement in pain relief.

While noting that "an important rationale for using oral steroids is the potential to decrease the need for more invasive interventions," the authors say that the two groups were equally likely to undergo spine surgery after 52 weeks.

Jim Burger

What's the Best Anesthesia Option for Infants?

Infants who undergo surgery fare better if they receive regional anesthesia instead of general anesthesia, researchers have found, though more training is needed for providers to administer infant spinal anesthesia.

Two new studies, published online in the journal Anesthesiology, examined the effectiveness of the two methods among infant patients undergoing hernia surgery.

In one of the studies, researchers compared the rates of apnea in 772 infants who received either general or regional anesthesia to undergo hernia repair surgery. They found that those who received regional anesthesia had a reduced risk of apnea in the first 30 minutes of surgery.

"Our research provides the strongest evidence to date on how babies should have anesthesia for hernia repair — the most common procedure among infants," says Andrew Davidson, MD, study author and associate professor at the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne, Australia. "We found that spinal anesthesia is safer than general anesthesia."

The second study looked only at the 339 of the 772 infants who had spinal surgery. It found that in 16.8% of the cases, an additional form of anesthesia had to be administered to complete the procedure. Researchers say this points to the steep learning curve and need for more training for providers to administer infant spinal anesthesia.

Kendal Gapinski

InstaPoll: Does a BSN Matter?

Want to start a good debate? Ask your nurses why they should care about attaining a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. Do you have an opinion on the issue? Tell us in this week's InstaPoll.

Two-thirds (67%) of the 126 respondents to last week's poll gave high marks (excellent or very good) to the educational sessions they sit through at professional meetings. The results:

Rate the quality of the educational sessions you attend at professional meetings.

  • Excellent 24%
  • Very good 43%
  • Average 31%
  • Very bad 1%
  • Insultingly bad 1%

Dan O'Connor

News & Notes

  • A better colon prep? Colonoscopy patients who consumed an edible colon prep consisting of 3 nutritionally balanced meals, snacks and drinks blended with the laxative PEG-3350 in the day before their screenings reported no problems with the process and would even do it again, say researchers who presented the small pilot study at Digestive Disease Week last week. The researchers plan to conduct a larger study pitting their idea's effectiveness against traditional bowel preps and have even founded a company for a potential commercial launch of colon prepping meals in 2017.
  • Standards for scrub laundering The Healthcare Laundry Accreditation Council has issued revised standards for the reprocessing of reusable textiles in the healthcare setting. The standards, which take effect on January 1, 2016, and which have received AORN's seal of recognition, cover the minimally acceptable practices for handling, transporting and laundering hygienically clean scrubs and linens for patient care.
  • Clowns calm kids, cut costs Including a "medical clown" among the surgical personnel conducting pediatric outpatient urological surgeries not only reduced the patients' anxiety and pain, it also shortened OR and discharge times for a cost savings of more than $461 per patient, says an Israeli study.