Spinal Fusion Lawsuits and Settlement Guide

Have you been told you need spinal fusion surgery? Are you a patient who underwent a spinal fusion surgery that failed? Spinal fusion is a surgery that permanently joins bones in the spine. Unfortunately, some spinal fusion surgeries fail. In some cases, failed spinal fusion surgery is a result of defective medical devices that doctors use. When a spinal fusion surgery fails as a result of a defective device, patients may be entitled to financial compensation. Here’s everything you need to know if you think you have a failed spinal fusion lawsuit.

What Is a Spinal Fusion?

It does sound complicated, but spinal fusion is a common surgery that fuses two or more bones in the spine. The bones, called vertebrae, are fused together to form one solid bone. In many cases, this surgery is necessary because a patient’s spine is no longer capable of supporting the normal load and stress of the body. These cases are generally due to injury or disease. When external measures like braces and therapy are not enough, surgery is usually required.

When a patient undergoes spinal fusion surgery, the surgeon goes in to remove intervertebral discs of cartilage. Once these are removed, they are replaced with metal devices that stabilize the spine. Metal plates or rods are attached to the vertebrae using bone screws, wires, and hooks. Spinal fusion is commonly used to treat spinal injuries and diseases like:

  • Acute trauma
  • Herniated discs
  • Bone fractures
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Chronic back pain
  • Nerve damage
  • Scoliosis
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Tumors

Most Common Spinal Fusion Complications, Risks, and Injuries

Complications can arise in any surgery. And, spinal fusion surgery is no different. Some of the most common injuries, risks, and complications that arise with spinal fusion surgery include:

  • Defective or broken spinal implants
  • Incomplete fusion
  • Continued health problems after surgery
  • Chronic pain
  • Inflammation
  • Infection
  • Blood clots
  • Nerve damage that is either temporary or permanent
  • Spinal cord damage
  • Complications of anesthesia
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Paralysis
  • Death

The Anatomy of the Spine and How It Is Affected by Spinal Fusion Surgery Failure

The spine is generally described as being divided into three major sections. These include the cervical spine, the thoracic spine, and the lumbar spine. Each section is made of individual bones called vertebrae. There are 7 cervical, 12 thoracic, and 5 lumbar vertebrae in the spine. Each vertebrae is made up of several parts. The vertebrae make up the weight bearing capabilities of the spine.

The spine is also made up of:

  • Joints
  • Discs
  • Nerves
  • Muscles
  • Ligaments
  • Spinal cord
  • Meninges
  • When the spine is injured, it may be impact a patient in the following ways:
  • Loss of sensation
  • Loss of muscle strength
  • Loss of bowel, bladder, and sexual function
  • Loss of mobility
  • Inability to stand
  • Chronic pain
  • Nerve damage
  • Risk of blood clots
  • Permanent or temporary paralysis
  • Involuntary muscle spasms
  • Sensory loss
  • Death

Common Causes of Failed Spinal Fusion Surgery

The three most common causes of failed spinal fusion surgery are medical malpractice, defective implant devices, and natural causes. When spinal fusion surgery fails as a result of medical malpractice, your doctor may be responsible. Your surgeon is responsible for medical malpractice with spinal fusion surgery if:

  • They are negligent in performing the procedure or fail to recognize signs of complications
  • They recommend the procedure with the knowledge that it is not a good idea or they don’t inform you about your alternative options
  • They fail to fully inform you of the risks before your surgery

In order to prove medical malpractice when it comes to failed spinal fusion surgery, you need to determine whether another reasonably competent surgeon is the same position would make the mistake. If your doctor failed to inform you of the risks or complications, you will need to prove that a reasonable patient would have wanted to be informed and a reasonable doctor would have offered the information. While medical malpractice is a more difficult lawsuit to prove, many patients have won their settlements.

When a failed fusion surgery is a result of defective implant devices, lawsuits are generally easier to prove. The most common lawsuits involved failed devices involved the following legal reasons for liability:

  • Surgical implant defect was a result of poor design, marketing, or manufacturing
  • A surgical implant was marketed as safe and effective even though the manufacturer knew it wasn’t
  • The manufacturer knew or should have known about the defects
  • The manufacturer failed to warn patients about the implant defects or potential hazard to health

The most commonly known failed spinal fusion surgery lawsuit against a manufacturer is the case involving Medtronic. In 2002, the Food and Drug Administration approved Medtronic’s Infuse Bone Grafts. These concentrated synthetic proteins were used for spinal fusion surgery. In 2015, the FDA approved their use for lumbar procedures. Prior to this approval, titanium cages were implanted to reinforce the spinal column and Medtronic’s Infuse Bone Grafts were approved with the requirement that certain polyetheretherketone cages be used to reinforce the spinal column during the fusion.

The potential risks of Medtronic’s Infuse Bone Grafts included:

  • Infection
  • Male sterility
  • Urinary problems
  • Nerve and bone injuries
  • Increased possibility of cancer

Unfortunately, up to half the patients treated with Medtronics’ device ended up with serious medical complications. To make matters even more unfortunate, the device was used on children. This proved to be a bad choice because children’s bones are still growing. To further complicate this, it was revealed that Medtronics paid doctors to withhold the disclosure of the potential risks.

Over 10,000 lawsuits were filed against Medtronic. 4,000 claims have already been settled and the rest are predicted to be settled. In 2015, the FDA updated their original 2008 warning that the Medtronic Infuse Bone Grafts can cause excess bone growth and crowd organs in children. This was added to the public health warning that the injection could cause swelling of the neck and throat tissue, compress the airways and neurological structures of the neck, and result in difficulty swallowing or breathing.

What Should I Do If I Think my Spinal Fusion Surgery is Causing Issues?

The most important course of action if you think your spinal fusion surgery has failed is to contact your medical professional immediately. They understand the routine problems that can arise and will be able to determine if an issue exists and how to treat it. They will know whether your symptoms are normal, whether they are permanent or temporary, and whether or not they require additional help. If it is determined that your spinal fusion surgery has failed, you should talk to an attorney when you can.

It’s important to understand that many states have a statute of limitations with personal injury cases. The sooner you talk to an attorney about your case, the better they can preserve your claim if they feel you have legal reasons for a lawsuit. When it comes to failed spinal fusion surgery, you need a personal injury attorney. The understand the law and the process and requirements involved with medical malpractice, personal injury, and product liability.

If your complications and pain warrant a lawsuit, your personal injury attorney in Illinois can help you navigate the system. They will gather all the information you need for a successful outcome.

Since many patients who undergo a failed spinal fusion surgery are entitled to compensation, hiring a personal injury attorney can help get you the outcome you deserve. Financial compensation may include coverage for:

  • Medical expenses including doctor’s bills, hospital bills, recovery therapy, medication, and follow up
  • Caregiver expenses accrued during recovery
  • Lost wages resulting from time off work while you were injured
  • Compensation for any short or long term disability including additional coverage for loss of consortium
  • Compensation for pain and suffering

Additionally, the families of patients who die as a result of failed spinal fusion surgery may be entitled to wrongful death compensation. While this won’t make up for the loss of your loved one, it can help ease the financial impact that comes when a member of the family dies. If you or someone you love had a failed spinal fusion surgery that was a result of medical malpractice or manufacturer negligence, contact a personal injury attorney to ensure you get the financial compensation you deserve.


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