Vertebrae and spinal fractures post-surgery: making a claim

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Terry Regan

Director and Head of Medical and Clinical Negligence

Vertebrae and spinal fractures and injuries are often treated with surgery. While the majority of such surgeries occur without complications, there is always risk associated with them. In some cases, spinal surgery can result in the worsening of the fracture or spinal injury, either for reasons beyond the surgeon's control or as a result of poor-quality care on behalf of the surgical team.

In this article, we'll describe in more detail different types of spinal fractures and explain how clinical negligence can cause or worsen them. We'll also advise you on the benefits of contacting a law firm when making a clinical negligence claim if you believe your spinal fracture occurred as a result of malpractice.

What are the different types of spinal fractures?

Common surgeries of the spine include spinal fusion surgery and a discectomy, but there are ways in which surgery can go wrong, causing ailments. There are four key types of spinal fracture; compression, burst, flexion-distraction and fracture-distraction.

  • Compression fractures occur when vertebrae have weakened as a result of diseases like osteoporosis or bone cancer. The weakened vertebrae cannot sustain too much stress and sudden force leads to a fracture.

  • Burst fractures occur as a result of serious trauma such as a car accident. The vertebrae is crushed due to extreme force being placed on it and it fractures in multiple places. Burst fractures are more serious than compression fractures because bone fragments can move and lead to injury of the spinal cord.

  • Flexion-distraction fractures occur when the spine flexes forward very suddenly and sustains immense stress as a result. These injuries often happen as a result of a car accident when the body is pushed forward.

  • Fracture-dislocation is where any of the above fractures occur and lead to significant dislocation of the vertebrae. The spine becomes incredibly unstable as a result which can lead to fractures worsening, damage to the spinal cord, or spinal deformity.

You can read more about common hospital negligence cases here.

How can surgical negligence cause a spinal fracture?

Performing surgery on the spine always comes with risk. It's possible that surgical intervention could lead to a worsening of the injury or damage to the surrounding tissues. This is because surgery can weaken the vertebrae and make them more susceptible to fracturing.

However, in some cases, surgical negligence is to blame for causing or worsening spinal fractures. Medical negligence is where healthcare professionals fail to administer treatment promptly, provide incorrect treatment, or deliver poor quality treatment. In the context of spinal surgery, this might include:

  • Surgery being performed unnecessarily

  • Surgery being performed at the wrong site

  • The wrong surgical procedure being performed

  • Failure to remove unintended foreign objects from the body before finishing surgery

  • Poor hygiene practices leading to infection of the vertebrae

  • Use of unsuitable medical devices such as rods and screws

  • Poor surgical skill leading to damage of bone

What are the risks of a fractured spine or vertebrae?

Fractures of the spine can cause pain and discomfort. If left untreated or treated incorrectly, fractures can worsen and become more difficult to treat. In some cases, fractures can lead to compression of the spinal cord which can cause a variety of short and long term complications. These include incontinence, mobility problems, tingling sensations in the limbs and, in the worst cases, total loss of sensation in the legs. The longer the spinal cord is compressed, the more likely there is to be permanent damage, such as paralysis.

If you have suffered the consequences of a spinal fracture and would like to make a spinal injury compensation claim, get in touch with our experts today to discuss your case.

Can I sue for surgical negligence if my spine is fractured?

You can claim for surgical negligence only if a spinal fracture occurs as a direct result of spinal surgery, or if your condition worsens as a direct result of surgery. If a fracture occurs post-surgery as a result of your own failure to adhere to an aftercare plan, you are not able to sue for surgical negligence.

For example, if a spinal surgeon or a qualified medical professional advised you to avoid strenuous activity for a week following surgery and you ignored this instruction, the surgeon is not liable for any resulting fracture or personal injury.

How can a medical negligence solicitor help me?

A qualified medical negligence solicitor can help you make a claim and achieve compensation for injuries that came about as a result of negligent spinal surgery. They will collect and submit evidence about your case and ensure you achieve a fair amount of compensation relative to the suffering your injury caused.

How can I make a surgical error claim?

The first step in making a surgical error claim is gathering together your evidence. This might include medical notes, letters and emails relating to the surgery and subsequent treatment or investigations. Next, note all of the consequences of the surgical error and any additional injuries or complications it caused you.

With this information to hand you can then contact a law firm that specialises in medical negligence, such as Wake Smith, to assist you in making your claim.

How Wake Smith can help

Wake Smith is highly experienced in surgical error claims and has an excellent track record of successfully claiming compensation for victims of medical malpractice. We strive to settle out of court as often as possible to ensure you get appropriate compensation with minimal stress. In the instances where the negligent party does not admit liability, we support you throughout court proceedings to ensure you get the best possible outcome.

If you think you could be entitled to compensation for a spinal fracture due to surgical error, get in touch to arrange a free consultation with one of our expert solicitors.

Common Queries

What is the greatest risk when dealing with a spinal injury?

The biggest risk involved in spinal injury is temporary or permanent damage to the spinal cord. When the spinal cord is damaged there may be a loss of sensation or mobility throughout the body below the area of injury.

How much can I claim for surgical negligence?

Compensation amounts for surgical negligence vary depending on the severity of the subsequent injuries and the impact injuries have had on the claimant's life. Compensation can also be paid for financial losses that have occurred due to negligence, such as an inability to work and subsequent loss of earnings.

Is failed back surgery medical malpractice?

If the back surgery failed due to improper medical practice, such as poor quality of care, it could be deemed medical malpractice. However, there are some instances where surgery fails despite the best efforts of the surgical team.

When should I make a claim for a spinal fracture?

If a spinal fracture occurred due to medical negligence, claims usually must be made within three years of you becoming aware of the problem. In instances where the patient is under the age of 18 or does not have mental capacity, this three-year time limit begins from the day the patient turns 18 or recovers capacity.

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About the author

Terry Regan

Director and Head of Medical and Clinical Negligence

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