Most Common Types Of Medical Malpractice Which Cause Spinal Cord Injuries
Just like the tissues of the brain, the neural structures within the spinal cord are susceptible to harm from pressure or compression. Many people seek treatment for acute pain arising from their neck or back. As a result, doctors and other health care providers often misdiagnose early symptoms of spinal cord compression as related to strained muscles or pinched spinal nerves, even when the patient says they are unaware what triggered their pain. But unlike a sprained muscle or pinched nerve, spinal cord compression can progress rapidly and lead to permanent injury within hours.
If the signs and symptoms of spinal cord compression are not timely diagnosed and treated, conditions like an infectious abscess or hematoma can compress and starve parts of the spinal cord from oxygen-rich blood. This compression can cause permanent loss of spinal cord function.
Lupetin and Unatin has handled many medical malpractice cases involving various causes of spinal cord compression or spinal cord injury, including:
- Misplacement of metal cages or surgical implants into the spinal cord;
- Delayed diagnosis and treatment of a spinal epidural abscess. A spinal epidural abscess is a walled-off mass of infectious by-products which can accumulate within the tissues abutting the spinal cord, leading to painful compression of the spinal cord and permanent neurological deficits;
- The failure to diagnose unstable fractures or developing infection of one or more vertebrae in the spine; and,
- The failure to diagnose and treatment spinal hematoma;
Depending on the degree and duration of pressure, a patient who suffers compression of the spinal cord may never regain use or feeling of the arms or legs. Some patients will lose the ability to control their bowel or bladder function.
The types of neurological injuries caused by spinal cord compression will usually depend on the level of the spinal cord injured. Injuries involving the spinal cord at the level of the neck, known as the cervical spinal cord, may be associated with the most severe neurological injuries and consequences. Tragically, patients with untreated compression of the cervical spinal cord may suffer complete and permanent quadriplegia leaving them dependent on help from others for the remainder of their lives.
The lawyers of Lupetin & Unatin have successfully litigated several medical malpractice lawsuits involving spinal cord injuries, including:
- 5-million-dollar settlement for a man in his 30’s who developed partial quadriplegia after cervical spinal fusion;
- 5-million-dollar settlement for a 54-year-old paralyzed from the delayed diagnosis and treatment of spinal epidural abscess due to underlying bone and disc infection;
- 6-million-dollar settlement for a 50-year-old who suffered quadriplegia from an unstable fracture in his neck causing compression of his spinal cord.
The medical malpractice lawyers of Lupetin and Unatin have helped many families answer the question of whether better medical care could have prevented their devastating brain or spinal cord injuries. From investigation of a case to helping our clients find the resources they need to achieve a full and meaningful life, Lupetin & Unatin can guide you through the challenges of living with or supporting a loved one with brain or spinal cord injuries.
Misdiagnosis of Brain Injuries or Spinal Cord Injuries as Psychiatric Issues
Sometimes, doctors or nurses wrongly diagnose patients with serious brain or spinal cord problems as suffering from psychiatric disease. For example, doctors and nurses may misdiagnose patients with psychiatric disorders instead of investigating potential medical emergencies in the following scenarios:
- Assuming a patient’s odd behavior, hallucinations, or confused statements are related to dementia or psychological problems when in fact the patient has a severe brain infection.
- Misdiagnosing a patient who claims they’re suddenly unable to move an arm or leg with mental illness, when in reality the inability to move the limb is a result of severe spinal cord compression.
- Failing to immediately evaluate an Emergency Department for signs of stroke and instead admitting the patient directly to a psychiatric floor of the hospital;
A human being’s mental health is just as important as physical health. Doctors may order psychiatric consults out of concern for the well-being of their patients. But, unless the patient’s medical and psychiatric history points overwhelmingly toward an acute psychiatric illness, it is almost always wrong for a doctor to assume psychiatric issues are the cause of a patient’s serious neurological deficits without ruling out an acute medical illness or disease affecting the brain or spinal cord.
If you believe a doctor or hospital focused entirely on a potential psychiatric illness for you or a loved one, and wrongly delayed testing or examinations necessary to diagnose a problem in the brain or spinal cord, the law firm of Lupetin and Unatin would like to hear your story.
Medical malpractice related to complications of spinal surgery
After the anesthesia wears off from spinal surgery, some patients are frightened to find themselves with severe pain or the inability to move or feel their arms or legs. Other patients deteriorate slowly as the pain, weakness, or numbness that brought them to the operating room gets worse in the days and weeks after surgery.
The law firm of Lupetin & Unatin has vast experience answering questions for people who develop disabling complications of spinal surgery.
Complications should be diagnosed as soon as possible after surgery. Early diagnosis of post-operative complications can mean the difference between an injury a patient can recover from and a complication which results in permanent injury.
Doctors are expected to perform frequent neurological examinations to find symptoms and signs of complications involving the spinal cord or spinal nerve roots. When a patient develops post-operative weakness, pain or sensory disturbances which are new or worse compared to their symptoms before surgery, their surgeon should be aggressive in trying to find the cause.
Surgeons are expected to recognize and treat common post-operative complications as soon as possible after spinal surgery. Examples of cases arising from common and treatable complications of spinal surgery include:
- Delayed diagnosis of complications from pedicle screws or misplaced surgical hardware – Spinal surgery often involves insertion of metal cages or screws inserted into the spine. Surgeons use live x-ray fluoroscopy or robotic devices to place this surgical hardware into the correct location as precisely as possible. But there is little room for error. When a screw or prosthetic disc is inserted on the wrong angle or slightly too far, the surgeon may inadvertently cause severe injury to the spinal cord or nerve roots.
- Delayed diagnosis of cerebral spinal fluid leaks – a doctor operating on the spine may accidentally cause a tear in the lining of the spinal cord. This is known as a dural tear. If too much cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) leaks through a dural tear, and too fast, the pressure in the brain may drop below a normal level. This leads to a condition known as intracranial hypotension. If doctors and hospitals do not diagnose and treat intracranial hypotension in a timely manner, it can lead to permanent brain injury
- Delayed diagnosis and treatment of post-operative infections –After spinal surgery, infection can start deep within the spine or at the surface of an incision. Surgeons and their staff often underappreciate the signs or symptoms of post-operative infections. While doctors often prescribe antibiotics if they suspect an infection at the site of the surgery, antibiotics may not halt infection from taking hold or getting worse. The delayed diagnosis and treatment of an infection with procedures like irrigation and debridement, or temporary removal of surgical hardware, can lead to permanent damage to spine.
It’s hard for patients to know the difference between an injury related to an unavoidable complication of spinal surgery and an injury related to medical malpractice. As attorneys who have reviewed dozens of similar cases, we know where to find the evidence to help you understand whether your post-operative complication was just an unfortunate bad outcome, or the result of medical malpractice. We know you feel betrayed. We can help you shed light on what happened and uncover the key to a potential lawsuit.