Surgical Errors and Nerve Damage

Surgical Errors and Nerve DamageWhen we go to the hospital or to our doctor, we trust that we are in good hands. These professionals have to go through years of education and training to be where they are now, and they are the only people the public really has available to treat us for our injuries and maladies. Most often, they tend to our injuries with expertise, and soon we are healthier thanks to their hard work. Sometimes, they do their best to help us, but the science or technology isn’t advanced enough yet to heal us completely; that’s understandable.

Occasionally, however, there are medical professionals who do not offer us their best – doctors who aren’t thorough enough, surgeons who make preventable mistakes, or other care providers who neglect patients to their detriment. In these cases, we come out worse than when we first sought out their help, and that is inexcusable. When it is a surgery, the stakes are high, and mistakes a surgeon makes can be life-changing, and may require further, more expensive surgeries. When nerves are damaged during these botched surgeries, it can often leave permanent injuries. When you are harmed due to negligence or malpractice, you should seek legal counsel. You deserve justice for your pain and suffering.

What surgeries have been known to cause nerve damage?

While any surgery has the possibility of causing nerve damage, there are a few surgeries that have been known to have higher probabilities of leaving the patient with peripheral nerve damage. Peripheral nerves refer to the nerves located outside the brain and spinal cord.  Some surgeries that have been known to leave peripheral nerve damage include:

  • Breast surgeries (including augmentations)
  • Facial surgeries
  • Thyroid surgeries
  • Hernia surgeries
  • Genital surgeries
  • Osteotomies (bone surgeries)
  • Carpal tunnel surgeries
  • Varicose vein and short saphenous vein surgeries
  • Elbow surgeries
  • Pelvic surgeries
  • Hip replacement surgeries
  • Low back fusion surgeries
  • Shoulder replacement surgeries

While these surgeries may leave you with temporary nerve damage that may heal over time, most instances of nerve damage are irreversible. It should be noted that many of these surgeries can result in damage to the peripheral nervous system. Surgeries concerning your spine, neck, and head may leave lasting damage to your central nervous system and related nerves.

What are the classifications of nerve damage?

When it comes to the severity of nerve damage, there are three categories, as per Seddon’s classification system:

  • The mildest type of nerve injury, neurapraxia occurs when the nerve’s protective myelin sheath is damaged though the nerve itself remains completely intact. Neurapraxia tends to cause symptoms such as stinging, tingling, numbness, and pain. Common causes of neurapraxia (outside of surgical errors) include car accidents, slip and fall accidents, sports accidents, and giving birth. Neurapraxia usually heals on its own and is not a permanent injury.
  • Axonotmesis. A more severe type of nerve damage than neurapraxia, axonotmesis occurs when any or all parts of the nerve known as the axons, myelin sheath, endoneurium, and perineurium are damaged, though remain intact. This damage is usually caused by more severe crushing or severing injuries than what causes neurapraxia, and recovery rates are lower. While the nerve may recover, the patient may be left with functional disability.
  • Neurotmesis. This type of nerve damage is the most severe and occurs when the entirety of the nerve is severed. Recovery is extremely rare in any amount. The outcome of neurotmesis is “complete sensory and motor deficits to the skin and muscles” where the nerve was damaged. Motor vehicle accidents are a common cause of neurotmesis, but any accident where nerves can be severed can lead to this type of nerve damage. This can lead to such injuries such as paralysis.

Nerve injuries that do not completely sever or crush the nerve can take years to heal, but when the nerve is severed or the root destroyed, there is no hope of recovery.

How do surgical errors happen?

According to a recent journal entry in the National Library of Medicine, “over 200 million surgical procedures are performed each year globally, and despite awareness of adverse effects, surgical errors continue to occur at a high rate.” Over 4,000 surgical errors happen every year in the United States.

There are several causes and reasons for surgical errors, and many of them happen due to a lack of communication. Some of the causes include:

  • Poorly educated/trained surgeons
  • A lack of standardized rules and regulations
  • Lack of/or gap in communication between the surgeon, anesthesiologist, and other ancillary staff
  • Poor communication between the surgeon and the patient
  • Use of unreliable systems or protocols
  • Rushing to finish cases
  • Human factors

In some instances, surgical errors could have been avoided had the correct precautions and proper time been taken to learn, communicate, and perform. If you are ever the victim of a surgical error, you should speak to a medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible.

Having your trust betrayed by a surgeon is a painful tragedy. Anyone who has to undergo a surgery is putting their health and their life in the surgeon’s hands, and when you are injured during the procedure that is meant to heal you, then you deserve restitution.

Please contact Paulson & Nace, PLLC through this contact form or by calling our offices today.