Spinal Surgery Negligence
The surgery to the spine is dangerous for many obvious reasons. First of all the neurosurgeon or orthopedic surgeon who is repairing the spine is dealing with the bundle of the body’s most sensitive nerves. The spinal cord is the place where the nervous tissue composed of white and gray matter is uniformly organized and divided into four separate regions.
The four regions are the cervical (C), thoracic (T), lumbar (L) and sacral (S). These are the bony regions of the entire spine. When spinal cord injuries or diseases occur the sensations that the nervous system provide are usually interrupted. There can be both temporary and permanent loss of function to a variety of areas of the body. Paralysis and loss of sensation often times are the result.
The nervous system of the human body is particularly vulnerable and thus the brain, the center of the body’s functions is surrounded by the bony structure of the skull. The skull is the brain’s protective covering, but the brain is made of millions of nerves and fibers that are jelly like in composition. Should the head by traumatized the brain may be jostled inside the skull and that trauma to the head can damage the brain.
The spinal cord is surround rings of bone or vertebrae that protect the nerves that run through that column. There is a membrane that cover the both the spinal cord and the vertebrae to protect it. The spinal cord is just about 18 inches long. It runs from the base of the brain, the mid-section of the back to right below the waist. The spinal cord is the communication system between the brain and the body that carries messages so that a person can feel sensations and move limbs.
Inside that spinal cord are spinal nerve cells or neurons that are the message carrier from the spinal cord by way of the spinal nerves. There are openings in the vertebrae that allows these messages from the spinal nerves to be relayed.
In a recent Cook County, Illinois case the plaintiff underwent a decompressive cervical laminectomy (C-2 to T-1) at Central DuPage Hospital that was done by a neurosurgeon. Following this surgery, the patient received pain medicine and a standing orders that required the hospital personnel to notify a physician if the patient’s blood pressure dropped below 90/60 or he experienced neurological changes.
The first two days after the surgery there were no problems except the patient was in pain and could not sleep. On the third day after the surgery three doctors visited him noting that he was alert, awake, oriented and neurologically normal. Due to ongoing pain complaints, a pain management specialist prescribed additional pain medication. The patient became very sleepy and a physical therapist that came around reported that he could not be aroused to do his therapy. Later that same day, the patient’s blood pressure dropped to 90/46 from 158/62 which was the reading earlier that morning. A neurologist, who was a named defendant in the case reported that the patient could be aroused, but quickly fell back to sleep. The patient who was then sitting in a chair was taken back to his bed by a nurse who found that his blood pressure had dropped to the very dangerous low reading of 64/44.
A doctor was called immediately who with a team restored the patient’s blood pressure, but the patient could not move his arms or legs. He was later diagnosed with incomplete C-4 quadriplegia. At this jury trial the argument made by the defendants, the neurologist doctor, the hospital and nurse was that the spinal cord injury developed in the area of the laminectomy as opposed to the watershed areas of the spinal cord most vulnerable to hypoperfusion (dangerously low blood pressure); the treating neurosurgeon and experts testified at trial that the spinal cord injury was not an infarction due to low blood pressure, but rather it resulted from a rare, unpredictable and untreatable reperfusion (when a compressed spinal cord receives renewed increased blood flow after the pressure is relieved by surgical laminectomy.
This case represents the many possible injuries a delicate and life-threatening spinal cord surgery can cause. In this particular case the patient now requires 24-hour care. His past and future medical expenses were calculated to be in the millions.
Spinal cord surgery negligence leading to serious injury or death is devastating. It is imperative that you have experienced lawyers on your side. With over 40 years of experience in handling medical malpractice cases, the Chicago medical malpractice lawyers at Kreisman Law Offices have the know-how and resources to aggressively handle your spinal cord surgery malpractice claim and obtain justice for you and your family. Contact our Chicago office at 312.346.0045 or 800.583.8002 for an immediate free consultation, or fill out our contact form.