In 2011, Rita Vasquez underwent cervical spine surgery at Our Lady of the Resurrection Medical Center in Chicago. The surgery was intended to relieve the severe pain that she was suffering as a result of a compressed disc. Instead, Vasquez sustained serious injuries including vascular injury, hemorrhage, nerve injury, and continued bodily pain.
Vazquez filed suit this past September against her surgeon, Dr. Michel Malek, alleging negligence. According to the Cook County Record, “The suit says Malek failed to protect vasculature and neurological structures at the time of the surgery from damage and excessive bleeding.” Vazquez is seeking compensation for her emotional distress, pain and suffering, and lost time and wages.
What is cervical spine surgery?
Cervical, in this case, refers to the part of the spine from the base of the brain to the bottom of the neck. Surgery on this area is complex; there are many important structures to navigate, from blood vessels and nerve endings to the esophagus and trachea.
The most common form of cervical spine surgery is called Anterior Cervical Decompression and Fusion (ACDF). The procedure is intended to eliminate root nerve pain that can translate into pain and weakness in other parts of the body. During the procedure, surgeons must navigate a complicated maze of vessels and organs. The esophagus, and by extension the trachea, must be moved out of the way to allow unimpeded access to the cervical vertebrae. Several layers of tissue must be cut or removed to allow access to the spine. Finally, tools must be inserted through all of these layers to allow surgeons to grind bone spurs and screw plates on to your spine.
This kind of surgery is invasive and carries a high risk of complications. The primary complication of ACDF is dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing. Sometimes, the degree of dysphagia is so high that a feeding tube is required. Occasionally, dysphagia is present before surgery as a result of a herniated disc. In these cases, it can be exacerbated during surgery and require a feeding tube for months after the operation.
The benefits of the surgery (i.e., relief from chronic pain) often outweigh the risks, but no one should be made to suffer unintended consequences of surgery. If you or someone you know has undergone ACDF surgery and suffered complications, you may be entitled to compensation. The experienced medical malpractice attorneys at Crandall & Pera Law can help you during a difficult and emotional time. Contact us today for a free consultation at one of our offices in Kentucky or Ohio.