Epidural steroid injections (commonly referred to as an ESI) are a routine medical procedure for patients experiencing severe pain in their neck, back, lumbar region, or legs. Most patients who receive an epidural steroid injection are either in labor or suffering from spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, sciatica, degenerative discs, or herniated discs.
Epidural steroid injections are administered in hospitals by a surgeon, neurologist, anesthesiologist, radiologist, or physiatrist. These licensed professionals are held to a higher standard of care, and are subject to malpractice lawsuits.
Doctors and surgeons generally cannot be held responsible for side effects or injuries when they follow protocol and perform their job to the letter.
However, when a doctor or surgeon injures a patient due to negligent activity, they may be liable for some or all of the resulting injuries. In such cases, the doctor’s malpractice insurance provider is obligated to compensate the victim for their injuries, losses, and damages.
While epidural injuries and severe side effects are rare, they can be quite serious. In some cases, they can lead to long-term conditions including nerve damage and paralysis.
Some examples of serious but rare epidural injuries include:
- Chronic pain around the injection site: short-term or long-term pain in or around where the epidural steroid injection was administered.
- Decreased bone density: can lead to osteoporosis.
- Dural puncture (aka “wet tap”): occurs when the injection punctures the patient’s outer membrane covering the spinal cord and causes a leak. The resulting “spinal headache” can last for days, requiring a blood patch to allow the epidural space to clot around the spinal sac and stop the leak. Wet tap most often occurs in patients with bleeding disorders.
- Epidural abscess: an infection between the outer covering of your brain and spinal cord, and the bones in your spine or skull.
- Infarction of the spinal cord: a stroke within the spinal cord or the arteries that supply the spinal cord.
- Infections: caused by bacteria
- Nerve damage: caused by bleeding, infection, or trauma from a wrongfully administered epidural needle.
- Neuropathy: numbness, weakness, and pain from nerve damage, usually experienced in your hands and feet.
- Paralysis: may be partial or complete
- Respiratory arrest: the patient stops breathing, sometimes leading to cardiac arrest.
With very few exceptions, serious injuries and side effects should present themselves soon after receiving the epidural steroid injection. It’s extremely unlikely to experience back pain or nerve damage years after receiving an epidural if you were fine in the weeks following your epidural.
That being said, it’s certainly possible to brush off minor pain or side effects immediately following an epidural, only to find that the condition progresses to a chronic issue when left untreated. That’s why it’s so important to speak with your doctor about any pain or issues you experience as soon as possible. Your health is of the utmost importance, but from a legal standpoint it’s also important for a medical professional to document these issues as early as possible.
How Many Epidural Steroid Injections are Safe in a Lifetime?
Most healthcare professionals agree that you should not receive more than two or three epidural steroid injections over the course of a single year. The needle itself isn’t the issue — it’s the possibility that the steroids may weaken your spinal bones and muscles that concerns doctors.
Furthermore, epidural steroid injections are known to cause side effects such as high blood sugar, mood changes, insomnia, facial flushing, loss of color in your skin, and skin thinning. Your risk of experience one of these side effects increases with each injection you receive.
Delaying epidural steroid injections also gives your body a chance to re-balance. Steroid injections are known to disrupt your body’s natural hormone balance, so it’s important to space your injections to allow your body to return to its normal balance.
Proving Negligence in a Epidural Nerve Damage Lawsuit
The most important aspect of an epidural nerve damage lawsuit is proving the doctor’s negligence directly caused nerve damage from the epidural. To do this, your attorney will need to prove three points:
- You were under the care of the medical professional at the time the injury occurred, resulting in a “duty of care” (thus establishing the doctor-patient relationship).
- The professional breached that duty of care by violating the standard of care expected by the medical community under similar circumstances (i.e. the doctor didn’t follow accepted protocol).
- Your serious injury and resulting damages are a direct result of the professional’s negligent care
For example, let’s say a mother in labor requests an epidural steroid injection. Standard procedure calls for the professional to insert the epidural needle 1.75 inches into the tissue when administering the epidural steroid injection.
In this case, the anesthesiologist pushes the epidural needle in 2 inches — clearly more than the accepted depth. In the process, the anesthesiologist hits a nerve during the epidural injection, resulting in nerve damage from the epidural.
There may be other factors at play that could influence the case, but it’s safe to say the patient in this scenario has a valid malpractice case against the anesthesiologist. In a successful case, the medical malpractice insurance provider would be required to compensate the victim for the damages incurred by the anesthesiologist.
Damages and Compensation
Every case is unique so it’s impossible to quote an average for damages in a medical malpractice lawsuit. In evaluating the value of your claim, your attorney will likely need to hire an expert to evaluate the severity and nature of your injuries. Providing you have a solid malpractice case, your damages may include:
- Compensation for your medical bills
- Compensation for lost income due to missing work
- Compensation for future, ongoing medical care and treatment
- Compensation for future lost income and missed income opportunities
- Pain and suffering damages (usually takes the form of a multiplier applied to your economic damages)
- Emotional distress damages
- Loss of enjoyment of life damages
- Loss of consortium damages
There are a number of DIY calculators available online, but the only way to accurately assess the value of your malpractice lawsuit is to work with an experienced attorney. It’s best to find a malpractice attorney with applicable experience in cases involving epidural nerve damage or other epidural injuries.
Medical malpractice lawsuits generally take longer, but the good news is most successful cases result in a private settlement.
Receive Help With an Epidural Nerve Damage Lawsuit in Arizona
In order to win a nerve damage lawsuit you will not only need to prove the injury, but prove it was caused by negligence, and do this against big insurance companies that represent doctors. Which is why working with an experienced personal injury lawyer is your best option to receive compensation.
If you believe you have been injured due to the negligence of a medical professional, and you live in Arizona, JacksonWhite can help. Our personal injury team will fight for Arizona medical negligence victims and can help you receive compensation for your injury.
Call Personal Injury Attorney Jared Everton at (480) 467-4392 to discuss your case today.
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