Florida medical malpractice lawyer, Guy S. DiMartino, discusses a recent medical malpractice case where a patient's arm was paralyzed after neck surgery.
The Madison Record reported the settlement of a medical malpractice case in Southern Illinois. In this case, the patient claimed that her neurosurgeon caused paralysis in her during neck surgery. The patient had a prior neck surgery which required the neurosurgeon to remove the prior hardware, remove a disc and fuse vertebrae in her neck together. This procedure is called an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF). In the recovery room, the patient realized that her right arm was paralyzed. The report said that the nerves going to her right arm were cut during the surgery.
Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion
ACDF is one of the most common and successful neck surgeries. During this procedure the surgeon enters the patient's neck from the front in an area by the SCM muscle. She will then expose the area where the surgery is going to be performed. Next, she uses instruments to free up and remove the disc material and cleans out the space in between the vertebrae. The doctor will then use a cage or spacer and fill the area with bone chips and other substances to promote bone growth and healing so the bones will fuse. Once the work on the disc space is finished the doctor will use a metal implant to stabilize the vertebrae allowing it to fuse. Because this procedure is done from the front of the patient, the risk of injuring the spinal cord and nerves is much less than performing the procedure from the back of the patient.
Even though spinal cord injury is reported in the literature as a risk of ACDF, it shouldn't happen if the surgeon is careful to full expose the operative field and identify and protect the spinal cord and nerves before cutting and removing tissue.
In the reported case, the patient lost her ability to use her right arm and shoulder. This is because the nerves that come out of the lower neck supply nerve function to the arm and hand. This patient's injury most likely occurred because the surgeon struck the spinal cord or clipped a nerve root when he was removing the prior hardware or disc material.
If you have any questions about a spinal cord injury after spine surgery, you can call me directly on my cell phone at (352) 267-9168 or fill out the internet consultation form on the right side of the screen.
photo attribution: www.mayfieldclinic.com