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When durotomy leads to a malpractice claim

Arizona residents should know that durotomy, a condition where the outer membrane of the spinal cord is torn, is a common and sometimes unavoidable side effect of spinal surgery. Most of the time, surgeons will recognize the issue and repair it during the surgery. However, the dural tears sometimes go unnoticed or reopen after surgery. The complications resulting from this can prompt many patients to file medical malpractice claims.

A study published in the journal Spine has analyzed 48 cases of incidental durotomy. The patients were split evenly between male and female, and their average age was 55 years. In 60 percent of the cases, the patients reported physical weakness among their injuries, but 20 percent involved paralysis, brain damage or death. Patients' allegations ranged from delayed diagnoses and treatments to improper repairs.

All 48 cases ended in a verdict or settlement. The study discovered that in 26 of the cases, the courts favored the surgeon. This included 80 percent of cases that did not involve neurologic complications like weakness or brain damage.

Nearly three-fourths of cases alleging improper repairs ended favorably for the plaintiff, as did 62 percent of those that alleged a delay in diagnosis or treatment. Therefore, the study suggests that when dural tears are promptly recognized and repaired, the ruling is more likely to be in the surgeon's favor.

Someone who believes that a surgeon's negligence led to their worsened condition may want to consult with an attorney before filing a claim. The attorney could assist by requesting an inquiry with the medical board and hiring experts to determine the exact extent of the injuries. The attorney could negotiate for the maximum settlement possible, one that covers past and future medical expenses as well as lost wages, pain and suffering, mental anguish and whatever else is applicable.

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Law Offices of Raymond J. Slomski, P.C.

2929 North Central Avenue Suite 700 Phoenix, AZ 85012 Phone: 602-635-7603 Fax: 602-230-8707 Phoenix Law Office Map