Chronic back pain is a debilitating medical issue that can affect all aspects of one’s life. In their desperation for relief, many people with back pain turn to surgical procedures such as spinal fusion, removal of a spinal disc (discectomy), and spinal decompression to alleviate pain and restore function.
Unfortunately, back surgery has a significant rate of failure. Depending on the procedure, as many as 36 percent to 40 percent of cases result in a condition known as “failed back surgery syndrome.”
What Is Failed Back Surgery Syndrome?
Patients with failed back surgery syndrome suffer a recurrence of the chronic back pain that led them to undergo surgery in the first place. In addition to this adverse outcome, you may also experience symptoms such as:
- Sensations of tingling and numbness
- Nerve pain
- Pain that radiates from the surgical site to other parts of the body
- Muscle spasms
- Weakness and pain in one or both legs
- Immobility and paralysis
These symptoms may be treated with medications and physiotherapy. In extreme cases, however, the only effective treatment may be additional back surgery.
Unfortunately, subsequent operations have a low rate of success. Secondary back surgeries are only successful in 50 percent of cases, with the likelihood of a positive outcome declining significantly with each subsequent procedure.
Can I Seek Compensation for Failed Back Surgery?
If your back surgery fails, you may wonder if you have a viable medical negligence claim. Your right to sue is contingent on two different questions:
- Did a surgical error cause the back surgery to fail?
- Was your doctor negligent in prescribing back surgery?
Medical negligence claims are complicated. It is important to work with an experienced lawyer who can review the details of your claim and advise you of your legal options.
Surgical Errors Leading to Failed Back Surgery
All surgeries carry some degree of risk. We expect surgeons to use all due care in preparing patients for surgery, performing the operation, and providing appropriate aftercare. Unfortunately, a number of issues can cause back surgeries to be unsuccessful.
Potential surgical errors that can cause back surgery to fail include:
- Failure to advise the patient of potential risks
- Errors during surgery, such as damaging a nerve, poor installation of screws and rods along the spine, etc.
- Operating on the wrong vertebra
- Anaesthesia errors
- Failure to sanitise surgical equipment, resulting in post-operative infection
- Inadequate monitoring of patients for complications and infections
- Providing inaccurate or incomplete post-surgical instructions
A failed back surgery does not automatically entitle you to seek legal compensation. You must prove that the care provided by the surgeon and/or another provider fell below the standard of the medical profession. In addition, to recover full compensation, you will need to demonstrate that the surgical error resulted in a significant injury as defined by law.
The Wrongs Act recognises the severe impact of spinal injuries. As a result, the significant injury threshold for claims involving injury to the spine is a permanent impairment rating of 5 percent or higher – slightly lower than the threshold for other physical injuries.
Medical Negligence and Unnecessary Back Surgeries
Some back surgeries fail due to errors during the procedure and/or after the fact. However, another issue may also be involved: the unnecessary use of back surgeries.
As their patients get older, doctors frequently hear complaints about back pain. Misdiagnosis of back problems (e.g., incorrectly diagnosing sciatica as a herniated disc) may lead specialists, orthopaedic surgeons, or neurosurgeons to recommend back surgery when a patient doesn’t really need it.
Patients who are not good candidates for back surgery are more likely to suffer severe complications. If diagnostic error was a factor in the unnecessary back surgery, you may be able to recover compensation for your injuries and damages through a medical negligence claim.
Read More: Can You Sue a Doctor for Misdiagnosis?
Unfortunately, some unnecessary back surgeries originate from a medical practitioner’s decision to put profits ahead of patients. Complex back surgery represents a significant financial opportunity for doctors and surgeons. The fees for these procedures are many times higher than more conservative treatment options – a temptation some doctors find too difficult to resist.
Knowingly prescribing a dangerous surgery that is unnecessary for the patient’s well-being is a clear violation of the standard of care. Thorough evaluation of your medical records can help establish that back surgery was unnecessary in your case, as well as the adverse effects of the procedure.
Failed Back Surgery? Our Lawyers Can Help
It takes time to recover from back surgery. Unfortunately, many patients come to realise that the pain they feel and the impairment they experience is not temporary.
If you or a loved one suffered complications from a botched or unnecessary back surgery, Henry Carus + Associates can help. Our Medical Negligence Practice Group, led by experienced lawyer Michelle Dubrava, has the knowledge and resources to pursue full compensation on your behalf.
Medical negligence is a specialised area of law with many complexities. Our team thoroughly reviews your medical records, consults with leading experts to build your claim, and calculates all of your losses. You Deserve More, and Henry Carus + Associates work hard to recover all of the damages to which you are entitled.
Please call 03 9001 1318 today for a free, no-obligation consultation to determine your rights after a failed back surgery. Henry Carus + Associates serve clients in Melbourne and throughout Victoria.