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Delayed diagnosis and improper treatment may cause complications

If you undergo spinal surgery in Maryland, the surgeons operating on you have a legal obligation to treat you in accordance with the standard of care required for your procedure. A surgical error may occur when a surgeon fails to act as a reasonable surgeon in similar circumstances would act, and causes you harm as a result. A recent study investigated medical malpractice claims resulting from incidental durotomies, or unintentional small tears to the dura mater, the outer membrane of the spinal cord, that may occur during surgery. The study found that many physicians may be liable in cases involving delayed diagnosis and treatment, as well as improper durotomy repair.

Dural tears occur fairly regularly during spinal surgeries and, for the most part, will not cause any long-term problems if they are immediately recognized and properly repaired. However, in cases where there is a late-presenting durotomy or if the dural tear reopens after the surgery, the patient may suffer complications.

According to the study, 44 percent of the incidental durotomy cases reviewed resulted in a settlement or verdict in favor of the patient or patient's family. If the case involved a payout, the plaintiff was likely to receive an average of approximately $2.8 million dollars. Generally, if the patient needed additional surgery to repair the dural tear, there was a delay in diagnosis or treatment, or there was an improper repair, the decision was more likely to be in their favor.

While some durotomies are unavoidable, any evidence of surgical negligence that causes harm to a patient can lead to financial recovery for patients and their families.

Source: Healio, "Study investigates durotomy associated medical malpractice cases," Dec. 19, 2017

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