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Study analyzes the role of durotomy in malpractice cases

When patients undergo spinal surgery, they often suffer small tears in the outer membrane of their spine. The tear is called durotomy and is sometimes unavoidable. In most cases, though, the surgeon will detect it and order a second operation to repair the injury, leaving the patient with no long-term issues to worry about. Arizona residents should know, however, about a study analyzing how durotomy is addressed in medical malpractice suits.

Claims of medical malpractice arise when these dural tears are not discovered in time and lead to spinal fluid leaks and other serious injuries. However, the authors of the study have shown that in the majority of these claims, the ruling is in the surgeon's favor. The results, published in Spine journal, are based on 48 cases of medical malpractice culled from three legal databases. Of these verdicts, 27 favored the surgeon while 21 favored the plaintiff.

Half of the victims were male and half female, with the average age being 55 years. Common allegations involved delays in the diagnosis and treatment as well as additional surgery that could have been avoided. The findings show that those claims involving easily detected dural tears and minor injuries did not result in a settlement while those that led to neurological complications and even death were more likely to be successful.

Surgical errors, such as improper durotomy repairs, were the most likely to lead to a successful malpractice claim. Victims of such errors may feel confident about receiving the compensation they deserve, but they may still want a lawyer to assist them. A lawyer can request an inquiry from the medical board or hire investigators to build proof of medical negligence. He or she can then negotiate for an out-of-court settlement, litigating only as a last resort. If someone died during surgery, the lawyer can help file a wrongful death suit.

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