Swede ‘engulfed in flames’ after US surgery

A Swedish woman who received burns on several parts of her body during a surgical procedure at a hospital in the United States is suing the hospital for negligence, according to a federal lawsuit file on Friday.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Malgorzata Jakobsson of Trångsund south of Stockholm told The Local on Monday, refusing to comment further citing the impending litigation.

Jakobsson received treatment in February 2009 for thoracic outlet syndrome, a condition that compresses the blood vessels near the collarbone, at the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.

After undergoing a special procedure that uses a high-frequency current to destroy tissue, she woke up with burns and in pain, according to the lawsuit.

“There are those who say that the United States has the best health care in the world, but Mrs. Jakobsson wasn’t engulfed in flames in a Swedish operating room. She had to come to Omaha for that experience,” the woman’s attorney Maren Chaloupka told the AP news service.

Jakobsson is suing the hospital and Dr. Åke Nyström for medical malpractice. The Swedish doctor has treated hundreds of patients for pain ailments since moving to the US in 1994. Many of his patients are Swedes thanks to the media attention he receives in Sweden.

After initially practicing at the University of Pittsburgh, he moved to the Nebraska Medical Center in 2001 and has headed the University of Nebraska Medical Center Whiplash Program since 2003.

Although patients have praised Nyström for curing their pain entirely, other doctors are skeptical of his methods.

“On the surface, it sounds a bit outrageous, but one can’t categorically say there isn’t anything to it,” Dr. James Campbell, a neurosurgeon and pain specialist at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, told AP in a 2004 article posted on the hospital’s website.

Added Dr. David Apple, an orthopedic surgeon and medical director of Atlanta’s Shepherd Center, which specialises in pain management, “If a patient thinks you’re doing something that is going to help them, the mind over matter sort of takes over. It’s sort of an old adage – you can’t cut out pain.”

The lawsuit filed by Jakobsson alleges that hospital workers performing the procedure knew the equipment could reach several hundred degrees and produce sparks, but failed to take reasonable measures to prevent a fire.

Hospital spokesman Paul Baltes told the AP that the hospital has investigated the fire and taken steps to improve the procedure to prevent further fires.

Jakobsson seeks more than $75,000 in damages to cover the costs of cosmetic surgery to repair the damage and has requested a jury trial.

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