Reiners v. Hospice of the Twin Cities

Reiners v. Hospice of the Twin Cities, WCCA No. WC15-5872 (April 28, 2016)

The employee suffered an admitted low back injury on April 16, 2010. A subsequent MRI confirmed an L5-S1 extruded disc herniation, which later was surgically corrected with an L5-S1 disc replacement. Unfortunately, the Employee continued to experience chronic pain following the surgery.

To address her chronic pain, the Employee underwent physical therapy, trigger point injections, and took opioid medication. She also received Botox injections with lasting relief. Eventually, the Employee’s treating physician recommended a rhizotomy procedure, at which point the Employer and Insurer denied continuing treatment.

The Employer and Insurer then acquired an Independent Medical Examination of the Employee by Dr. Joel Gedan. Dr. Gedan opined that the proposed rhizotomy, use of opioid medication and Botox procedures were unreasonable and unnecessary. In a written narrative, the Employee’s treating physician explained his proposed rhizotomy procedure and opined that opioid medication was necessary to control the Employee’s pain.

At hearing, the Compensation Judge adopted Dr. Gedan’s medical opinion, denying the Employer and Insurer’s responsibility for the rhizotomy and Botox treatments. With respect to the opioid medication, the Compensation Judge ordered that further medication was unreasonable and unnecessary unless it was prescribed by a pain clinic as part of a program to wean the Employee from that medication.

The Employee appealed the compensation Judge’s findings without an attorney. The Workers’ Compensation Court of appeals affirmed the Compensation Judge’s adoption of Dr. Gedan’s opinions, finding that Judges have wide latitude to resolve disputes between inconsistent medical opinions.