Orthopedic injuries like hurting your hand, foot, or part of your limbs can seem small, but it quickly becomes clear how important these parts of our body really are. Severely injuring or losing a toe, finger, elbow, or knee can mean a person is completely unable to function due to both pain and the injury itself. These issues are even more difficult to get over when negligence plays a role in making the condition worse.
Orthopedic Surgery Malpractice Cases
Studies have shown that orthopedic surgery is one of the leading causes of medical malpractice claims. Knee surgery error and hip surgery error were two of the primary reasons for pursuing an orthopedic surgery malpractice case. Here are some of the standards of care an orthopedic surgeon or other care provider must follow:
- Properly set bones so that pain is reduced after the surgery
- Repair fractures through correct placement of hardware
- Diagnose nerve impingement and issues with ligaments and tendons
- Operate on the correct part of the body
- Remove all surgical instruments, sponges, and devices from the patient
- Recognize post-surgical problems and ensure adequate care for wounds and fractures
In Indiana medical negligence cases, the question of whether the surgeon or other caregiver was following best practices must be judged by a group of three other doctors before the case can be filed. It is not guaranteed these doctors will share a specialty with the surgeon or know much about surgery at all. This means a compelling body of evidence must be presented to the Indiana Department of Insurance (IDOI) to show the patient has been the victim of medical malpractice. If the IDOI panel does not agree negligence occurred, the process to file a medical malpractice claim in Indiana gets even more difficult. Contact an experienced Indiana medical negligence attorney to learn more.
Orthopedic Failure to Diagnose
Failure to diagnose a fracture or other orthopedic injury doesn’t just happen at the specialist’s office. The emergency room staff, a medical professional in an ambulance, or even a primary care doctor could all contribute to missing the diagnosis. In one study, failure to diagnose caused 12% of the medical malpractice claims filed. Among those missed diagnoses, around 60% of them were fractures in the lower limbs. This includes hip fractures, ankle fractures, thigh bone fractures, shin fractures, knee fractures, broken foot, and broken pelvis.
Broken bones may be misdiagnosed as a sprain or bruise, leading to worse conditions over time like decreased mobility, a less successful surgery, or even sepsis. Failure to diagnose bleeding or an injury to a vein or artery can also contribute to these outcomes and worse. However, a missed diagnosis could be less serious than a fracture. Missed diagnosis of a meniscus tear or damage to other ligaments and tendons in the feet, hands, and limbs can be painful and life-altering as well.
Nerve Damage from Surgery
Sciatic nerve injury from a hip replacement is one common injury from orthopedic surgery that leads to permanent effects on the patient. Sometimes this injury occurs as a matter inherent to the procedure, but it can also be the result of several forms of surgical negligence:
- Careless making of the incision
- Lack of experience diagnosing nerve injuries
- Not enough experience dissecting nerves
- Did not adequately look for the nerve(s) while operating
- Finished surgery too quickly and damaged nerves withdrawing a camera or other device
Proving that nerve damage from surgery was the direct result of negligence by a surgeon requires the support of a seasoned attorney who can ask the right questions and gather evidence to support the case.
Hand and Wrist Surgery Negligence
Surgery to the wrist and hand requires working around a lot of delicate bones and tendons. Small instruments like cameras and drills make these arthroscopic surgeries more effective than ever before. However, it’s important to know that hand surgery should always be done by a hand surgeon, whether an orthopedic surgeon or a plastic surgeon with special training. There is not a specific board certification for hand surgery. Without proper experience, surgeons may alter the wrong bones in the hand or wrist. They also may not know how to use the surgical tools or be experienced enough for a complex procedure. If you are preparing for a hand surgery don’t be afraid to ask questions about your surgeon’s experience and the outcomes of their past procedures.
Like other forms of orthopedic malpractice, podiatry malpractice may or may not be surgical. Before surgery, negligence might take the form of a missed diagnosis. Missing a diagnosis of a bone infection like osteomyelitis, nerve injuries like complex regional pain syndrome, failure to adequately treat diabetic skin problems, and even unnecessary surgery or procedures are all forms of medical negligence.
Foot surgery is similar to hand surgery in that there are many small bones that are intricately connected. A foot surgery error as simple as removing too much bone when a bunion is cut off can lead to life-altering consequences for a patient. Just because a procedure is considered routine by your surgeon or podiatrist does not mean it really is. They should always make you aware of the risks associated with the procedure and the potential negative outcomes that might follow even a perfect surgery.
Medical negligence cases are always complex and require lots of information-gathering to develop. Christie Farrell Lee & Bell is a team of Indiana attorneys that has build our practice around helping those injured by negligence regain peace of mind and move forward in life. Learn more about our Indiana medical malpractice lawyers.