Medical Malpractice Cases Involving Anterior Cervical Discectomy

An anterior cervical discectomy is a relatively common neck surgery performed by an orthopedic spinal surgeon or neurosurgeon.   The surgery is typically indicated when a patient has pain or other symptoms caused by cervical compression from a suspected herniated disc after conservative treatment fails.  Because the surgery involves operating in close proximity to the spinal cord, surgeons must be careful to comply with certain standards of care to avoid injuring the patient’s spinal cord. The medical malpractice lawyers at Kroot Law, LLC have handled a variety of surgical error cases, including anterior cervical discectomy cases.

Signs and symptoms of cervical compression can vary greatly, though most involve radiculopathy down one or more arms.    In addition to pain, patients may feel numbness, tingling, and/or burning down the arm.    In the most serious cases, patients may experience neurologic deficits like reduced strength in the arms and even legs, which may be accompanied by other deficits such as poor bladder control.   

In nearly all cases, conservative treatment is attempted first before surgery is ordered.   Conservative treatment may begin with medication such as steroids, along with physical therapy.  In most cases, conservative treatment will improve cervical symptoms.  In some cases, however, patients may move on to steroidal injections in their neck   If these injections fail, surgery may be indicated.   Physicians seeking to comply with the standard of care will almost always order conservative treatment first before recommending surgery absent exceptional circumstances.   However, before surgery is performed, physicians will order radiographic films, namely and MRI and often an x-rays, to obtain a more accurate diagnoses.

The vast majority of anterior cervical discectomies improve a patient’s symptoms.   Before surgery is performed, the surgeon must have a clear grasp of the nature, extent, and location of the pathology causing cervical compression.  Although a ruptured disc is usually the culprit, that does not mean there is not another source causing compression such as a bone spur.  The objective of any cervical decompression procedure is to decompress the spinal cord.   During the procedure, the surgeon must meticulously probe and remove all sources of meaningful compression which may include bone spurs.  Failing to decompress the spinal cord during the procedure can have dire consequences, which can include paralysis caused by a combination of continued compression and post-operative swelling.   Inadvertently injuring the spinal cord from cervical instruments can also cause paralysis.

Not all complications that occur from an anterior cervical discectomy are a result of medical malpractice.  Some complications can occur under the best of care.   If a patient suffers a serious injury or death from a suspected medical mistake during a cervical procedure, a knowledgeable and experienced medical malpractice lawyer can assist in determining whether the complication occurred from medical negligence.    For further information, we invite you to contact our Chicago law office for a free consultation.

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