Spinal Cord Injuries
Chronic back pain can be a nightmare for anyone experiencing it. Whether it takes the form of a constant dull ache or sharp, shooting pains, chronic back pain can interfere with your ability to lead a normal life.
It may interfere with your ability to do your job, perform household tasks, or even to sleep. It also may affect your relationship with your spouse or children if you’re unable to hug them or otherwise show physical affection because of the pain you’re experiencing.
After going through numerous treatments — physical therapy, pain medications, cortisone shots — a surgeon tells you that your best option for long-term relief is surgery. You’re willing to try anything to be able to live normally, or as close to normal as you can get. You put yourself in the surgeon’s hands, and hope for the best. You undergo the procedure, and when you wake up you find that you can’t move your legs. There was a mistake during the procedure that damaged your spinal cord and left you paralyzed.
Purpose of the Spinal Cord
Your nervous system is your body’s information transportation network, and your spinal cord is like the major interstate that links all of the other smaller roads. The bundle of nervous tissue extends from the base of your brain down through your back, and is the conduit for messages from your brain to the rest of your body, and for sensory information that travels up to the brain. The spinal cord also houses neural circuits that control and coordinate a number of reflexes.
When the spinal cord is damaged, broken, or severed, the transmission of information is interrupted, which in turn can result in serious, lifelong impairments in motor and sensory functions. Loss of movement and sensation are common results of spinal cord damage.
Common Spinal Surgery Mistakes
Spinal surgeries are complex, delicate, and risky. The doctors who perform surgery on the spine should be experienced and highly trained to minimize the potential for mistakes that can have life-altering consequences for the patient. When a mistake is made that damages the spinal cord, the patient may face lifelong disability.
- Mistakes in Placing Rods, Plates and Screws — Hardware such as rods, plates and screws are used in some types of spinal surgery to hold the vertebrae in place. If the hardware is loose or it breaks, it can cause damage to the spinal column, nerves, or surrounding tissues. Additional surgery usually is needed to replace or remove the hardware and repair the damage.
- Spinal Fusion Surgery Mistakes — Spinal fusion is a type of surgery in which two or more vertebrae are fused in order to immobilize them and relieve pain caused when the vertebrae move around in ways they shouldn’t. Errors during spinal fusion surgery can mean the vertebrae don’t properly fuse and continue to move, which can cause damage to the spine.
- Wrong Site Surgery — If a surgeon operates on the wrong part of the spine, spinal cord damage could result.
Consequences of Spinal Cord Damage
The spinal cord is crucial to many bodily functions — namely movement, reflexes, and sensations. When the spinal cord is damaged, you may experience any number of serious and debilitating complications, including:
- Pain — When the spinal cord is damaged, you may experience pain that is worse than the pain the surgery was intended to relieve.
- Paraplegia — Damage to the spinal cord can result in loss of movement or sensation in the lower extremities known as paraplegia. Paraplegia sufferers may be unable to walk or their ability to walk may be impaired. They also may experience problems with bowel, bladder, and sexual functions, as well as chronic pain.
- Quadriplegia — If the damage to the spinal cord is high enough, it may result in paralysis of both arms and both legs. This condition is known as quadriplegia. In addition to the loss of movement, quadriplegics may be unable to breathe on their own and require a ventilator.
- Loss of Sensation — When messages can’t properly travel between the brain and the nerves, you may experience numbness, tingling, or pain.
- Foot Drop — This is a form of paralysis in which you can’t lift the front part of your foot, which impedes your ability to walk properly. You may require a brace, physical therapy, or additional surgery.
- Death — Very serious spinal cord damage can be fatal.
People with spinal cord injuries also may be more susceptible to pneumonia, osteoporosis, bone fractures, muscle spasms, urinary tract infections and blood clots.
How a Chicago Malpractice Lawyer Can Help
If you’ve suffered spinal cord damage because of a medical mistake, you may have a medical malpractice claim. A medical malpractice claim allows you to recover compensation when you suffer injuries or harm because of medical negligence. Compensation may include payment of your medical costs associated with the malpractice, including the underlying procedure and any future treatment you’ll need because of the malpractice. You also may be able to recover any income you lost or will lose because you’re unable to work either temporarily or permanently. Additional compensation may pay for your pain and suffering, disability and disfigurement, and loss of normal life.
If you think you may have a claim, an experienced Chicago spinal cord injury lawyer can help. An attorney can review the circumstances of your injury and determine the likelihood you can recover compensation, as well as helping you through the process of your claim from investigation to negotiating a settlement — and to trial if a lawsuit is necessary.