Laminectomy Cases: The Perks of Using Medical Animation in Court

During a laminectomy, negligence can have devastating effects on the patient. Legal animation can illustrate the medical errors that can occur to get justice.
Laminectomy
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The spinal cord is a web of nerves that runs from the base of the skull to the back, responsible for relaying signals from your brain to your muscles. It acts as shock absorbers between the vertebra of your spine. They maintain the flexibility of your back so you may bend and twist. Typically, the spine protects the spinal cord; however, some injuries or conditions may pressure the spinal cord. Moreover, the spinal cord may be compressed if the vertebra is broken or grow irregularly. This pressure on the spinal cord or nerve root may lead to pain and tingles in the arm and leg, leading to back pains. There are plenty of options for recovery, ranging from fusions to laminectomy. However, laminectomy is the most common of them. . 

What is Laminectomy? 

Laminectomy is one of the most popular back surgeries. This surgery is a medical procedure to treat the narrowing of the spinal cord or spinal stenosis. It is a surgery in which the surgeon partially or entirely removes the spinal bone to decompress the spinal cord or nerve roots. 

The bones that protrude from the back of the spine, called a lamina, are removed during surgery to relieve pressure on the spinal cord, enhancing function and quality of life.

Why Might I Need a Laminectomy?

The feeling can be overwhelming when you have back pains or neck pain, muscle weakness, numbness, or bowel impairment. Surgery is often the best solution when non-surgical conservative remedies like physical therapy, heat and cold therapy, and corticosteroid injections have failed to relieve your symptoms. 

  • Herniated Disc 

Discs serve as cushions for the vertebrae or bones that make up the spine in the back. When the discs between your spine’s bones protrude through a tear in the annulus, it is known as a herniated disc. Although a herniated disk can develop anywhere along the spine, it most frequently occurs in the lower back. Depending on where it is located, a herniated disc may cause discomfort, numbness, or weakness in an arm or leg.

  • Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis occurs when the space inside the spine is too small. This narrowing can cause pressure on the spinal cord or the nerves connecting it to the muscle, making them irritated, compressed, or pinched. The leading cause of this condition is osteoarthritis or ‘wear and tear usually occurring in your spine as you age. The case of Smith v. Continental Casualty Company illustrates a similar event.

  • Spondylosis 

Spondylosis is the normal deterioration of the neck’s cartilage, disks, ligaments, and bones. This condition occurs with aging. Physical therapy, heat, massage, and drugs can help relieve the pain when the symptoms are not severe. However, when symptoms become severe, a laminectomy may help treat them. 

  • Degenerative Disc 

Degeneration is also an age-related condition that occurs when one or more discs between the vertebrae of the spinal column degrade or break down, causing discomfort. 

Are There Complications That Could Arise From Laminectomy?

Postoperative complications are prevalent with laminectomy. One of the most common complications of laminectomy is bowel and bladder dysfunction. This occurs when a particular spinal nerve has been damaged. 

In Hiding v. Williams, the plaintiff underwent a laminectomy surgery which rendered his excretory non-functional; he lost sensation and control of his bowels which substantially led to his death. This plaintiff’s spouse brought a wrongful death and medical malpractice action. 

The patient can also get an infection during a laminectomy surgery. 

In Neary v. Charleston Area Medical Center Inc., after the laminectomy surgery that the plaintiff had, he suffered from a staphylococcus aureus infection resulting from the non-sterile surgical instrument, which led to muscle spasms, weakness, and severe back pain.  

How Does Legal Animation Help? 

When having laminectomy surgery, there are risks of injury or complications from the surgeon or the surgical equipment, just like with any other surgery. The injured patient or spouse (if the patient is dead) has the right to file a lawsuit for medical malpractice, wrongful death, or product liability in the event of injury.

Medical animation can illustrate the surgeon’s error and how it affected the patient.

An excellent example of medical error that can occur during this back surgery is in the case of Crump v. Piper. In this case, the defendant surgeon negligently left a cottonoid sponge in the plaintiff’s body after the laminectomy surgery. This medical error resulted in personal injuries and damage to the plaintiff. The court entered judgment for the plaintiff for $250,000 in damages. 

This same scenario was seen in Mudd v. Dorr, where the plaintiff suffered tremendous pain from the foreign object left in her body during surgery. In the event of such damage due to a laminectomy error, legal animation can be used to illustrate such an event in court. 

Another example is the case of Long v. Hacker. In this case, the plaintiff brought a medical malpractice action against the defendant for operating on the wrong vertebra of the plaintiff’s spine in a laminectomy surgery.

Another area legal animation can help in a laminectomy case is by enhancing the admissibility of expert evidence.

Medical malpractice cases are challenging to prosecute because it can be difficult to explain to a jury the complicated medical procedures and harmful effects on a client. This is why expert evidence is crucial. 

Expert evidence is vital to any case of medical malpractice. The plaintiff in a medical malpractice action, however, must show that the standard of care provided by the medical professional was below what was reasonable given the patient’s circumstances and the professional’s training and experience. Usually, at least one other medical expert with comparable credentials and familiarity with the claimant’s community must testify to establish the standard of treatment. 

Legal animation can illustrate the facts in a simplified manner and make the jury understand how the plaintiff was made to undergo such pain due to a medical error. Hence, reinforcing your expert’s testimony. 

In Malone v. Daugherty, the jury stated that the expert testimony was insufficient to defeat the motion for summary judgment. In cases like this, the visual aid of legal animation would have come handy to help the plaintiff get adequate compensation. 

In summary, medical animation is very effective in illustrating surgical errors. However, a legal animation company with expertise in producing trial exhibits must be consulted to create such animation.

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