Laser Spine Surgery Errors: Legal Recourse for Patients Dealing with Negligence
In the relentless pursuit of relief from chronic pain and debilitating spinal conditions, individuals often find themselves considering laser spine surgery. Marketed as a revolutionary and minimally invasive procedure, laser spine surgery holds the promise of immediate pain relief and a rapid return to daily life. However, laser spine surgery is complex and may cause complications. In recent years, there have been many cases surrounding laser spine surgery errors and medical negligence.
If you or a loved one has suffered from laser spine surgery malpractice, it is important to know your option. That is why, in this article, you will learn about laser spine surgery errors, why they happen, and what kind of recourse you can expect when filing a medical malpractice claim. Let’s get started.
- Laser spine surgery offers the allure of minimal invasiveness and rapid pain relief, yet it is not devoid of complications.
- Medical malpractice can occur during laser spine surgeries, leading to dire consequences for patients.
- Determining liability for laser spine surgery errors is a complex process and varies from case to case.
- Initiating a malpractice claim is a crucial step in seeking justice and potential compensation.
- Patients have a range of legal options available, which can provide redress for their suffering, including the expert guidance of Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyers at Raynes & Lawn.
What is Laser Spine Surgery?
Laser spine surgery is a minimally invasive surgical technique used to address spinal issues, particularly those causing neck or back pain. This method has gained attention due to marketing claims, but it remains a controversial topic among spine care professionals. Contrary to the misconception that a laser beam eliminates pain through the skin, laser spine surgery does involve an incision, just like other minimally invasive procedures. Moreover, there is a risk of damaging nerves or tissues with a laser, and there is no scientific evidence supporting the superiority of laser spine surgery over non-laser approaches.
Advocates of laser spine surgery claim that it allows for same-day discharge, minimal downtime, and a small incision of less than an inch. However, endoscopic or microscopic spine surgeries are also outpatient procedures with similar incision sizes and recovery times. The key difference is in the surgeon’s ability to visualize structures around the spine, where laser surgery may lack precision, increasing the risk of adverse events in inexperienced hands.
Procedures Where Laser Spine Surgery Is Used
Laser spine surgery is used to address various spinal conditions and issues, including:
- Herniated Discs: Laser spine surgery is often used to treat herniated discs by removing or shrinking the damaged disc material that is pressing on nearby nerves and causing pain.
- Spinal Stenosis: It can be employed to alleviate the symptoms of spinal stenosis, a condition characterized by the narrowing of the spinal canal and pressure on the spinal cord or nerves.
- Bone Spurs: Laser surgery can remove bone spurs, which are abnormal bony growths that can impinge on the spinal cord or nerves.
- Facet Joint Issues: Laser surgery may be used to address facet joint problems, such as arthritis or joint inflammation in the spine.
- Foraminotomy: This procedure can be performed using a laser to enlarge the neural foramina, the openings through which nerve roots exit the spinal column. It is often done to relieve nerve compression.
- Discectomy: Laser discectomy can be used to remove or shrink herniated disc material, typically through a minimally invasive approach. However, this procedure is not entirely performed with a laser. Instead, the laser is used to shrink the source of compression, which is typically herniated disc material pressing on a nerve or the spine. Surgical instruments are still required in this process.
- Tumor or Lesion Removal: In some cases, laser spine surgery can be employed to remove spinal tumors or lesions.
What are Common Errors and Complications That Occur With Laser Spine Surgery?
Laser spine surgery, like other medical procedures, can be associated with various errors and complications. Here are some of the most common that occur:
- Misguided Laser: Surgeons need to be precise during laser spine surgery, and despite significant training, there’s a possibility of the laser being misdirected or mismanaged. This risk can also be present with traditional surgical instruments, but some surgeons may be more comfortable with non-laser tools. Routine calibration checks help ensure accuracy.
- Unresolved Pain: Laser surgery may not completely address issues within the bone, as lasers cannot cut through bone. Therefore, if the problem is located in the vertebrae or spinal column, laser surgery alone may not fully correct the problem. Combining a laser with other surgical tools may be necessary for comprehensive treatment.
- Heat Damage: Laser spine surgery uses concentrated heat to cut through structures and soft tissues. While precision is crucial to avoid damage to nearby structures, there is a risk of heat spilling over during the operation, potentially leading to nerve damage, incontinence, and numbness. Traditional surgical tools do not carry this specific risk, leading some surgeons to prefer them over lasers.
- Infection: Infections are a risk in any surgical procedure due to the wound opening, and the risk is slightly higher in open laser surgeries. The use of a laser in conjunction with minimally invasive techniques can reduce the risk of infection due to smaller incisions.
- Numbness, Paresthesia, and Weakness: Laser spine surgery may result in postoperative numbness, paresthesia, and weakness, particularly related to sensory and motor nerves. While real-time directional electromyography (EMG) monitoring is employed to minimize the risk of motor nerve injury, sensory nerves cannot be monitored. The rate of motor weakness and sensory deficits varies, with most being transient, but some patients may experience prolonged symptoms.
How Does Medical Malpractice Happen During Laser Spine Surgery?
Medical malpractice can happen at various times before, during, and after a procedure. This is no different with laser spine surgery. Consider the following instances where negligence can lead to medical malpractice or a wrongful death:
Inadequate Patient Assessment
Surgeons must conduct a thorough patient assessment, including evaluating medical history, existing conditions, and contraindications. Failure to do so can result in complications. For example, the Laser Spine Institute lost a $20 million case in 2018 when a patient was discharged prematurely after surgery without proper assessment, leading to tragic consequences.
Even minimally invasive laser spine surgery requires precision and expertise. Surgical errors such as incorrect incisions, damage to nearby structures, or improper hardware placement can lead to malpractice claims.
Misdiagnosis or inaccurate diagnosis of the patient’s spinal condition can lead to unnecessary surgeries. Patients may undergo laser spine surgery when alternative treatments or therapies would have been more appropriate.
Inadequate Informed Consent
Patients must provide informed consent, fully understanding the potential risks and benefits of laser spine surgery. Surgeons failing to ensure informed consent can face malpractice claims.
Complications during the postoperative period are another area where medical malpractice can occur. Poor postoperative care, inadequate monitoring, or delayed response to complications can harm patients.
Recommending or performing unnecessary laser spine surgeries for financial gain can be considered medical malpractice.
Failure to Follow Established Protocols
Surgeons and their teams must adhere to established protocols for laser spine surgery. Deviations from these protocols can lead to complications and injuries.
Improper Training and Expertise
Surgeons performing laser spine surgery must have the appropriate training and expertise. Attempts by inadequately trained or inexperienced surgeons can lead to medical malpractice claims.
Lack of Communication
Inadequate communication among surgical team members can lead to errors during the procedure. Proper communication is crucial to ensure that everyone involved in the surgery is aware of the patient’s specific needs and circumstances.
Inadequate Follow-Up Care
After laser spine surgery, patients require proper follow-up care and monitoring. Negligence in providing this care can lead to unaddressed complications, resulting in medical malpractice claims.
Who is Liable for Laser Spine Surgery Errors in Philadelphia?
Errors and complications happen for a number of reasons. Although laser spine surgery is said to be a minimally invasive surgical procedure, a certain amount of skill and expertise is required to maintain the standard of care the patient expects. In the event the patient suffers from a laser spine surgery error, there is a chance that the following individuals or entities may be held responsible:
If a surgeon in Philadelphia fails to follow proper laser spine surgery protocols, misplaces incisions, or damages surrounding structures during the procedure, the surgeon could be held liable for medical malpractice. For instance, if a patient experiences paralysis due to a surgical error, the surgeon may be responsible.
Hospital or Facility Liability
In a scenario where a Philadelphia hospital fails to maintain the laser equipment correctly, leading to malfunctions during surgery or an unsterile environment, the hospital or facility may be held responsible for the resulting complications.
Nurse or Anesthesiologist Negligence
Errors or negligence by a nurse or anesthesiologist during the laser spine surgery can also lead to liability. If a nurse administers the wrong medication or dosage, resulting in complications, they may be held accountable.
If a defect in the laser equipment or surgical tools used in Philadelphia during the procedure contributes to an error or injury, the manufacturer of the equipment may be liable for product liability.
Informed Consent Violation
If a patient claims they were not adequately informed about the potential risks of the procedure, the healthcare provider may be liable for failing to obtain proper informed consent, especially if the patient experiences unforeseen complications.
Postoperative Care Negligence
After the surgery, if a patient in Philadelphia experiences complications due to inadequate postoperative care, such as delayed response to complications, lack of monitoring, or incorrect follow-up treatment, the healthcare providers involved in their aftercare might be held liable.
Legal representatives and insurance companies can play a role in the liability process. If, for example, an insurance company pressures a surgeon to cut corners during the procedure, they may be implicated in the lawsuit.
Please note that these are hypothetical examples, and liability in real cases can be complex and fact-specific. If you have experienced a laser spine surgery error in Philadelphia and are considering a medical malpractice claim, it’s crucial to consult with a qualified attorney who can assess the details of your case and determine the responsible parties based on the specific circumstances.
Starting a Laser Spine Surgery Errors Malpractice Claim
If you believe you’ve been a victim of medical malpractice during laser spine surgery in Philadelphia, it’s essential to understand the steps involved in starting a malpractice claim. Here’s what you can expect:
Consultation with an Attorney
Your first step is to consult with a skilled medical malpractice attorney, preferably one with experience handling laser spine surgery cases. They will review your case, assess the merits, and advise you on the best course of action.
Medical Records Review
Your attorney will request and thoroughly review your medical records, including pre-operative, operative, and post-operative notes, diagnostic tests, and any evidence of complications.
To substantiate your claim, your attorney may consult with medical experts who can provide opinions on whether the surgeon or medical staff deviated from the standard of care and how this led to your injuries.
Notification of Intent
In Pennsylvania, a pre-lawsuit notification of intent is required for medical malpractice cases. Your attorney will send a notice of intent to the potential defendant(s), informing them of your intent to file a lawsuit.
Negotiations and Settlement
Often, prior to going to court, there are settlement negotiations between your attorney and the defendant’s legal team or their insurance company. If a fair settlement is reached, the case may conclude at this stage.
Filing a Lawsuit
If a settlement is not reached or negotiations fail, your attorney will file a lawsuit on your behalf in the appropriate court in Philadelphia.
Both parties engage in a discovery process where they exchange information, documents, and evidence related to the case. Depositions may also be taken from key witnesses.
Expert witnesses will play a crucial role in court. They will present opinions supporting your case, helping to establish that medical malpractice occurred during the laser spine surgery.
If the case does not settle before this point, it will proceed to trial. Your attorney will present your case, and the defendant’s legal team will present their defense.
What Kind of Legal Recourse Can You Suspect from a Medical Malpractice Case?
When pursuing a medical malpractice claim related to laser spine surgery errors in Pennsylvania, individuals may seek various types of damages to compensate for their losses and suffering. These damages can be broadly categorized into general damages, special damages, and, in rare cases, punitive damages.
Let’s take a more in-depth look at each of these categories:
General Damages (Non-Economic Damages)
These damages encompass compensation for the physical and mental pain and suffering experienced by the patient due to the medical malpractice. This may encompass the pain, discomfort, and distress caused by the malpractice and any additional medical treatment required as a result. Patients may also be entitled to damages for the loss of the ability to enjoy life’s activities, pursue hobbies, and engage in activities they could previously enjoy.
In cases where the medical malpractice results in long-term or permanent disability, the patient may receive compensation for the consequences and limitations associated with the disability. Additionally, a patient’s loved ones may pursue a loss of consortium claim, seeking compensation for the impact of the malpractice on the patient’s relationship with their family members
“Pain and suffering” is also a component of general damages in a medical malpractice case. It encompasses both the patient’s physical pain and discomfort and the mental distress, anxiety, fear, and other non-physical effects resulting from the malpractice. To calculate pain and suffering, insurance companies and attorneys may use a “multiplier” in conjunction with the total cost of additional medical care necessitated by the malpractice.
Special Damages (Economic Damages)
Special damages are more quantifiable. They cover the financial impacts of the malpractice. This includes compensation for medical bills incurred as a result of the malpractice, the anticipated cost of future medical care required because of the malpractice, and compensation for time missed at work or any other income lost due to the harm caused by the malpractice. If the malpractice results in long-term effects on the patient’s ability to earn a living, they may be compensated for the loss of earning capacity in the future.
In rare circumstances, punitive damages may be available in a medical malpractice case. These damages are meant to punish the wrongdoer for behavior that goes beyond negligence and demonstrates recklessness or an extreme disregard for the safety of others. The exact amount of punitive damages is determined by the judge or jury and is typically used to deter such behavior in the future.
Contact the Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Lawyers of Raynes & Lawn Today
In the quest for relief from chronic pain and spinal conditions, laser spine surgery may seem like a revolutionary solution, but it can have complications and errors. Recognizing the risks and what to do if you or a loved one experiences malpractice is crucial. If you believe you’re a victim of laser spine surgery malpractice in Philadelphia, seek legal guidance from Raynes & Lawn’s experienced team. We’re here to help you pursue justice and compensation.
Contact Raynes & Lawn today to schedule your free consultation by calling 1-800-535-1797. We won’t let medical malpractice go unanswered.
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