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Study analyzes malpractice claims involving durotomy

A study recently published in the journal Spine analyzed the varying outcomes of 48 medical malpractice claims, each of which involved a condition called durotomy. Florida residents about to undergo spinal surgery should know that durotomy is a common and sometimes unavoidable condition in which the outer membrane of the spinal cord develops tears. Surgeons can usually detect and repair the condition during the procedure, causing no long-term effects.

However, dural tears can reopen or pass undetected, creating complications. The 48 plaintiffs, who were evenly split between male and female, alleged everything from the need for additional surgery to improper repairs to delays in diagnosis and treatment. While 60 percent reported weakness among their injuries, 20 percent suffered paralysis, brain damage or death. All the cases ended in a verdict or settlement.

Twenty-six of the cases ended favorably for the surgeon, including 80 percent of cases that involved no neurologic complications. Furthermore, 73 percent of cases involving improper repairs ended favorably for the plaintiff as did 62 percent of those involving a delayed diagnosis or treatment. This suggests that surgeons tend to be favored when dural tears are detected and repaired with no further complications. The average amount paid out in damages was $2.8 million (in 2016-adjusted dollars).

Those who incur incidental durotomy, i.e. unintended tears, may want to see a lawyer about filing a medical malpractice claim. The lawyer could determine if the requirements are met for a valid claim. These requirements include a preexisting doctor-patient relationship and the doctor's failure to live up to objective standards of care.

The lawyer can have experts measure the exact extent of the injuries so that a victim can strive for the maximum possible settlement. A successful claim could cover past and future medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages and more. The lawyer can then negotiate for the settlement.

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