All surgical procedures have risks of complications. Patients who have spinal cord surgery should be aware that there is a risk of severe complications that sometimes are unavoidable. However, some complications associated with lifelong pain or disability can occur as the result of negligence or malpractice by the surgeon or the anesthesiologist.
Complications of spinal cord surgery may result in paralysis, persistent pain, loss of bowel and bladder control, and sexual dysfunction. When screws and plates used to strengthen the spine are placed improperly during surgery, another procedure may be required to correct placement. If blood-thinning medications are not stopped before surgery, patients can bleed excessively. If a clot or a hematoma forms near the spinal cord, compression on the cord may result in permanent quadriplegia. An unintended cut to a nerve or major artery during spinal surgery can have devastating consequences.
Other complications that may occur during spinal cord surgery or in the recovery period include bad outcomes that are risks during any surgery, like blood clots, infection, failure of orthopedic hardware, or drug reactions from the general anesthetic used during the procedure.
The Spinal Cord
The spinal cord is a cord formed from nerve fibers that is usually about 18 inches long in an adult. It extends from the base of the brain to the region of the waist. The spinal cord carries nerve signals from the brain to the rest of the body, and it also carries sensory input from the body back to the brain. The spinal cord travels through the spinal canal in the spine, which is a column composed of 33 individual bones, stacked one on top of the other and connected by ligaments and muscles.
Thirty-one pairs of spinal nerves branch off of the spinal cord to carry messages between the body and the brain. The nerve fibers at the base of the spine separate into a “tail” known as the “cauda equina,” and the nerves in the cauda equine branch off into your legs and the lower parts of your body.
The spinal cord is divided into different levels that do not correspond exactly with the vertebra at that level. The segments f the spinal cord include the cervical (neck), thoracic (trunk), lumbar (low back) and sacrum (tail of the spinal cord.) If your spinal cord is interrupted by trauma or disease, all nerves below the level of damage are affected. The amount of disability that will result depends upon the severity of the injury.
Spinal Cord Injuries Can Result in Partial or Complete Paralysis
Although there is promising research leading to new treatment of spinal cord injury, physical therapy, medication, or additional surgery often result. The prognosis depends upon the type of injury, the location of injury, and the quality of care received by the patient.
In general, the higher the level of injury, the more severe the disability. For example, an injury to the spinal cord in the cervical region, near the neck, can result in respiratory failure and paralysis. Injuries at the C (cervical)1-C4 level cause quadriplegia, or loss of motor function in the arms and legs. A person with an injury at the C1 to C3 level will usually require a ventilator to breath. Someone with an injury to the thoracic region of the spinal cord will have feeling and function in their arms and torso, depending upon the level. People with injuries to the sacral or lumbar region, known as paraplegics, can be functionally independent and may be able to walk.
Spinal Cord Injuries Can Result in Lifelong Disability
Spinal cord injuries can be catastrophic. Patients with severe injuries may require lifetime care that can range from household help or childcare to a full-time personal attendant. Loss of enjoyment and pain and suffering are frequently significant. Depending upon the extent of injury, the patient maybe unable to return to work or may only be able to work in a very limited capacity.
If You Have Experienced A Bad Outcome After Spinal Cord Surgery, Call Us:
An injury or complication during spinal cord surgery may be the result of negligence or malpractice. Call Chicago’s top medical malpractice attorneys today for an evaluation of your case.