Anyone who experiences serious or disabling nerve damage due to medical negligence may have grounds for a medical malpractice compensation claim.
At DSC Attorneys, we specialise in medical malpractice claims. This is a highly specialised area of law that’s subject to unique legal principles and procedures.
Nerve damage after surgery
Unfortunately, nerve damage after surgery is common. Somewhere between one in 50 and one in 200 patients suffers permanent nerve damage after surgery.
Nerve damage is a potential side-effect of any surgery and isn’t always caused by medical negligence.
There are three ways in which the nerves can be damaged as a result of surgery:
- neurapraxia – damage to the covering of the nerve or myelin sheath
- axontomeis – damage to the nerve itself or the neurons
- neurontomesis – damage when the nerve is torn or cut in half.
The most common nerve damage is scarring, which can form around a nerve after surgery. Scar tissue constricts the nerve, which reduces the transport of critical chemicals the nerve needs to stay healthy.
While nerve damage can happen without medical error or improper practices being involved, it may also be caused by medical malpractice or negligence.
When could nerve damage constitute medical malpractice?
For nerve damage to have been caused by medical malpractice, a health practitioner must have been negligent. Negligence occurs when otherwise avoidable nerve damage happens causing lasting symptoms to a patient. In other words, the damage could have been avoided.
Surgeons often work very close to nerves during operations and damage can be caused without error or negligence. There is always calculated and accepted risk during any surgery. A patient must be informed of this risk and consent to it before surgery. This is known as informed consent.
Nerve damage as a result of medical negligence doesn’t only happen during surgery. It can be caused by:
- a poorly administered injection
- extraction of a blood sample
- during negligent anaesthesia
- as a result of prolonged pressure to an area of the body
- improper use of equipment
- failure to diagnose certain degenerative conditions.
Causes of peripheral nerve damage during surgery
There are a number of mechanisms that can cause peripheral nerve damage during surgery. They may be the result of medical negligence.
Damage may be caused by compression or stretching (pressing or squashing) as a result of:
- the position you’re lying in during surgery
- a tourniquet (tight bandage) used to reduce surgical swelling
- compression of the tongue by an airways tube used for general anaesthetic
- pressure from surgical equipment.
A surgeon may cause direct injury to a nerve as he or she operates. This may be hard to avoid and the risks should be explained ahead of the surgery.
Inadequate blood supply
If blood vessels supplying a nerve are damaged or compressed, or blood supply is reduced due to pressure or stretching, the nerve can be damaged due to oxygen starvation.
Nerves that are already compromised because of a pre-existing condition, such as rheumatoid arthritis or diabetes, are more likely to be damaged.
Insertion of a cannula
Nerve damage can be caused by needles used to place a cannula (drip) into a vein or artery.
Nerve damage due to anaesthesia
Undergoing any form of anaesthesia has risks. A patient must be informed of these risks before any anaesthetic is administered.
There are three types of anaesthesia – local, regional and general. Nerve damage can be caused by a mistake involving the administration of either one of them. A mistake that results in permanent nerve damage can constitute negligence.
A local anaesthetic is administered with a syringe. If the doctor makes contact between the syringe and a nerve, damage can result.
A regional anaesthetic usually involves injecting an anaesthetic into the spinal column, which contains a dense concentration of nerves that transmit signals from the lower extremities to the brain. If these nerves are damaged when injecting the anaesthetic, it may result in permanent spinal cord damage.
A mistake in administering a general anaesthetic can cause nerve damage as a result of the body’s inability to sense discomfort. If a doctor fails to adjust a patient’s position during surgery and nerve damage is caused from the pinching of a nerve, this could constitute medical malpractice.
What’s required to support a medical malpractice claim
To win a medical malpractice claim if you’ve suffered avoidable nerve damage, negligence must be proven. Your legal team must prove that a healthcare professional committed medical negligence at some point during the procedure (including pre- and post-op) and that the nerve damage was the result of that negligence.
In other words, your legal team must prove the negligent and preventable action and that it caused the nerve damage.
Proving negligence is a highly skilled process. It requires the opinions of medical experts who can show that the surgical procedure or medical treatment did not meet the standards of care required of a competent and skilled healthcare practitioner.
Symptoms of nerve damage
The most common symptoms of nerve damage after surgery are:
- muscle weakness
These symptoms are considered temporary if they last for a few weeks or months. If they last longer than a few months, they’re considered permanent nerve damage and will need to be treated.
Compensation for nerve damage due to medical malpractice
You can make a compensation claim for nerve damage against any health practitioner, not just your doctor. It can be against a dentist, nurse, osteopath, physiotherapist or anyone who may have been negligent.
A claim can also be made against a hospital, clinic or medical practice, a private healthcare group or a health department.
There are many factors that affect how much a compensation claim for nerve damage may be, such as:
- the extent and severity of the injury or harm suffered
- medical costs, including likely future costs of treatment, rehabilitation and ongoing support
- the impact on the victim’s earning potential.
How DSC Attorneys can help you win a nerve damage compensation claim
At DSC Attorneys, we specialise in medical malpractice claims, including nerve damage compensation claims.
Our personal injury attorneys and medico-legal team can assess your claim, help prepare supporting evidence and represent you in legal proceedings, giving you the best chance of receiving the compensation you deserve.
We work on a no win, no fee basis. Contact us for the very best legal support and representation.