Durotomy refers to a tear in the dura mater, or outer membrane, of the spinal cord and is often a consequence of spinal surgery. While these dural tears are often inevitable, they can usually be detected and repaired in a second surgical operation, leaving patients with no long-term problems. On the other hand, dural tears often form the basis for medical malpractice suits in New York and elsewhere in the U.S.
According to a recent study from Brown University, most malpractice cases involving durotomy end with a ruling in the surgeon’s favor. Under analysis were 48 cases of incidental durotomy, with exactly half of the patients male and the other half female; they averaged around 55 years in age. The allegations mainly concerned the need for additional surgery as well as delayed diagnoses and treatments. Dural tears resulted in physical weakness in 60 percent of cases and paralysis, brain damage, or death in 20 percent.
Twenty-seven of the cases ended in a verdict favoring the surgeon while the remaining 21 favored the patient. Researchers concluded that the surgeon’s side will be favored if the dural tear is promptly recognized and treated and if it causes only minor injuries. If durotomy goes unrecognized, causes severe injuries, and reopens after the second operation, then the patient will be favored.
This is important for injury victims to remember when considering whether or not to file a claim, as the process requires a great deal of time and money. A lawyer could provide professional advice and guidance whenever someone is injured through a surgical error. If, for example, a dural tear reopens and leads to spinal fluid leak, the surgeon may be held responsible. The lawyer can request an inquiry from the local medical board and then prepare either for negotiations or for litigation.