Neurosurgeons are doctors who help with ailments that affect the nervous system and the brain. They work under difficult conditions and their work is more delicate than cases handled by most types of surgeons. Their goal is to help the brain recover from trauma, injury, or illness, and learn to adapt to a new condition that may be permanent in the life of the patient. Unfortunately, there are times where a neurosurgeon fails to make the right move, and someone might wind up with an injury or die from a surgical error. In those cases, medical malpractice lawsuits may be one of the options the injured party has for financial recourse. If there is a question of malpractice, the best way to find out is by speaking with experienced malpractice lawyers.
What Neurosurgeons Do as Part of Their Job
When a patient presents neurological issues, such as dizziness, loss of speech, swelling of the brain, or similar symptoms, the first place most doctors look is the brain. When there is something wrong with the brain, the symptoms are noticeable and progressively get worse. It is the job of a neurosurgeon to diagnose the issue, then operate if the issue with the brain is something that requires surgery. They go through extensive schooling, training for an additional 6-8 years beyond medical school to learn how to care for a patient’s brain. If the neurosurgeon is a specialist, he or she will undergo up to three additional years of training before seeing the first patient.
Neurosurgeons work on all of these parts of the brain and spine:
- Bones of the face, neck, and spine
- All blood vessels surrounding the head, neck, and spine
- Ligaments of the head and neck
- Spinal bones
- Nerves in the head, neck, and spine
- Discs that cushion the spine
- Tissue that covers the nerves
Neurosurgeons perform all types of surgery, including:
- Operating to remove or resect brain tumors
- Operating to try and repair issues with the spine and the spinal cord
- Operating in an attempt to stop or slow seizures
- Operating on an awake patient to try and alleviate neurological issues, such as tremors in Parkinson’s patients
- Operating to stop someone’s brain from bleeding following traumatic injuries or to stop a stroke.
- Operating to allow the messages to pass from the brain to the spinal cord as they should when a nerve problem is causing delays or stoppages in those messages
The goal of any neurosurgeon is to help alleviate issues of the brain so that people can live higher-quality lives with fewer restrictions. Some of the conditions that a neurosurgeon can help manage include:
- Moyamoya syndrome
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Spinal stenosis
- Tumors on the nerves
- Cancer of the spinal cord
Not all surgical procedures can be done when a patient is asleep. Most types of brain surgery require some alertness from the patient for the doctor to be able to tell if he or she is hitting the wrong part of the brain. If the patient loses a function, most of the time, the doctor can back up and restore that function without it being permanent. However, some issues are permanent before the doctor even starts the surgery.
How Something Can Go Wrong During Neurosurgery
Unfortunately, there are many instances for something to go wrong during these delicate procedures. One wrong move during spinal surgery could result in the patient being paralyzed. This is something that all neurosurgical professionals keep in mind during their jobs. It makes these professionals scarcer as there are only approximately 4,000 of them working around the United States currently. They are sparsely located all over the country, from New York to California, Florida, and Washington. However, it also makes them more careful. They understand how delicate each procedure is, so they must go to great lengths to avoid neurosurgery malpractice.
Here are just a few instances that could result in medical malpractice for a neurosurgeon:
- Bleeding in the brain that is difficult or impossible to stop. This could lead to additional injuries or death.
- Infection in the brain, which could cause swelling, nerve damage, injury, or death
- Heart attacks caused by pressure inside the brain
- Strokes if there is a blood clot that dislodges and moves into a deeper area of the brain.
- Nerve damage or paralysis from a misaligned cut to the brain or spine
- Administering a dose of medication that was too low or too high for the patient and leads to an injury or a worsening of the patient’s condition.
- Delayed diagnosis of an obvious problem, such as a patient presenting symptoms of a stroke but no action was taken
- Irreversible brain damage from a surgical procedure that did not go as planned
- Misdiagnosis because no tests were run or the test results were not reviewed before making the diagnosis
- Performing a surgical procedure that the patient did not need
- Forgetting any surgical equipment at the end of the surgery and was left inside the patient
- Not providing the right kind of aftercare for the patient, leading to an injury or death.
- Not recognizing the signs of a brain bleed or an infection post-operation
- Allowing a patient to return home too soon after a procedure
- Not including the information from a medical history in the diagnostic process of the client, or neglecting to get a medical history in the first place
- Not responding when a patient’s vital signs significantly changed
- Neglecting to inform the patient about the dangers of the treatment or the surgery before it is done, and the patient is injured or killed as a result
Medical Malpractice Claims Require Complex Understanding
The laws covering medical malpractice are notoriously complex. They are written that way in an attempt to limit the number of frivolous lawsuits that people file. Unfortunately, that also means they are very difficult for people to try and pursue on their own. It is best to go into any type of malpractice suit with legal representation. The attorney can explain the process, direct the paperwork to the right place, and make sure everything is done within the time limits the state has set.
Medical malpractice cases are meant to provide damages to the injured party, or their family in case of death. The damages are payouts from the accused to the plaintiff, or from the insurance company to the plaintiff. These payouts allow for medical expenses to be covered, as well as compensation for the way an injury emotionally affected the injured party. Some of the damages a plaintiff can ask for include:
- Cover all current and future medical bills that pertain directly to the injury
- Pay for all equipment, therapy, and prescriptions the patient may need as a result of the injury
- Wages that cannot be earned while the injury is healing
- Future pay the injured party cannot earn if the injury is permanent or too significant for that person to return to work
- Money to cover the lost quality of life
- Money to cover the things that the injured party is no longer able to do, such as going for a walk, taking care of his or her children, drive, or cook meals. This is called the loss of consortium.
- The expense of a funeral if the injury was so significant that the patient died.
The court will determine what awards the injured party should receive if the accused is found guilty. However, the injured party must be able to provide evidential proof to show the accused caused the injury. Here are the criteria the injured party must be able to prove:
- The injured party was at some point cared for by the accused.
- The care that the injured party should have gotten was reasonable. This is what type of care the injured party would have received if he or she went anywhere else that could treat the issue by a different medical professional.
- The care the injured party received was not up to the level proven it should have been. This is proving the subpar care resulted in medical negligence.
- The accused is the one who caused the injury. The injury could be a direct result of doing something dangerous, or it could be the result of not doing what is needed. The proof needs to show that the injury was a result of what the accused did or did not prevent.
All malpractice claims must be able to prove there was some type of negligence that led to the injury. Without that proof, there is no claim.
Finding an Attorney to Represent the Injured Party
One of the most important parts of filing a malpractice case is having the right law firm or lawyer to represent the case. He or she is whom the court sees the most, and who will be fighting for the compensation the injury deserves in court. Most attorneys offer a free consultation, which allows the injured party to talk to them before making a decision to hire. That way, the injured party can see if he or she feels comfortable opening up about his or her case. The injury may have led to a feeling of isolation or embarrassment since the injured party can no longer do some or all previous activities and tasks. Finding a compassionate attorney who can help with this can make all the difference.
Neurosurgeons have a very valuable role in health care, but they are not infallible. They may make mistakes. When those mistakes are made and not corrected or are committed due to negligence, then the doctor responsible needs to own up to the mistake and make it right. Whether the mistake happened at some upscale hospital in New York or a small town in the middle of Kansas, no one should go through a medical injury without getting compensated. Speaking to a lawyer can help determine what steps can be taken and if any type of compensation is available for the injury that took place. Contact an attorney now and learn what rights are available in this situation.