Brain & Spinal Injury Lawyers in Pittsburgh, PA
Medical Malpractice Lawyer Representing The Injured in Allegheny County and Throughout Western Pennsylvania
Brain and spinal cord injuries can have permanent and life-altering consequences. As such, they can forever change the lives of their victims as well as their families. Unfortunately, these often occur as a result of medical error. Surgical mishaps, negligence, and improper monitoring can all lead to life-altering injury. With the often devastating effects of these types of injuries, it’s important to work with a skilled Pittsburgh medical malpractice attorney to get the compensation you need.
For answers to Frequently Asked Questions about brain and spinal injuries, and related medical malpractice claims, in Pennsylvania, see the Matzus Law medical malpractice FAQ page.
Brain injury affects up to 1.5 million Americans a year. Of these, 50,000 lose their lives and an additional 80,000 will suffer permanent disability as a result of trauma. Traumatic Brain Injury, or TBI, occurs as a result of direct trauma to the skull. When this occurs, a blow to the head is hard enough to cause the brain to make contact with the cranium. A concussion is a common example of a traumatic brain injury. Damages to the brain must be closely monitored, as multiple TBIs in a short time frame can result in catastrophic consequences, like chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
If you sustain a blow to the head, your doctor will likely ask if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms:
- Blurred vision in one or both eyes
- Change in sleep or behavioral patterns
- Vomiting or nausea
- Slurring of speech
- Loss of coordination in limbs
- Numbness or weakness in extremities, like fingers and toes
Based on the results of your history and physical exam, your admitting physician may order tests, like X-rays or CT scans, to make sure your spinal cord or nerves have not been affected. In about half of cases of moderate to severe TBI, patients will require surgery to repair damage to the brain. For example, the brain hitting the skull with enough force can result in broken blood vessels in the brain (hematoma) and bruised brain tissue. If left unchecked, these injuries can grow and press on other areas of the brain, leading to permanent disability, coma, or death.
At Matzus Law, we offer free consultations. Contact our firm to discuss your injury case with us today.
Traumatic Brain Injury & Medical Malpractice
Unfortunately, medical negligence can lead to devastating consequences when it comes to TBI. There are many ways medical negligence can aggravate traumatic brain injury:
- Failure to diagnose: If you come to an emergency room with symptoms consistent with a brain injury, your medical team is expected to do anything reasonably necessary to diagnose and treat your condition. If your attending physician fails to order an X-ray or CT when one should be ordered to evaluate your condition, he or she may be held accountable for any resulting long-term damage.
- Negligence: Physicians are often pressured into seeing as many patients as they can in a short time frame, particularly in an emergency room. Unfortunately, this pressure to be efficient can lead to mistakes. For example, if you are making your second visit to the emergency room in less than a year for a suspected concussion, physicians are obligated to diagnose or treat potential consequences, like acute traumatic encephalopathy. If they fail to do so, they may be responsible for damages.
Other Types of Brain Injury
Types of brain injuries that cannot be classified as the result of a direct blow to the head are lumped together in a category known simply as acquired brain injury. Acquired brain injuries can occur in a multitude of ways, including:
- Obstruction of the airway (through choking or other means)
- Blood loss
- Heart attack
Symptoms of Acquired Brain Injury
When the brain sustains damage, the symptoms may vary greatly depending on which area of the organ is affected. An acquired brain injury may affect one or all of the following dimensions:
- Cognitive problems: This can include memory loss, impaired judgment, and an inability to make decisions or follow instructions with multiple steps.
- Perception issues: such as vertigo, changes in pain sensitivity, and altered vision, smell, or taste.
- Physical impairment: This can include symptoms like severe headaches, fatigue, ataxia (loss of coordination), and seizures.
- Behavioral complications: including mood swings, extreme irritability, aggression, or heightened responses to emotional stimuli.
If you display any of these symptoms following a routine procedure or after an event that results in blood loss or problems with blood circulation (such as a heart attack, stroke, or thrombus), your doctor may suspect an acquired brain injury. If you have suffered a brain injury due to medical malpractice, contact our skilled Pittsburgh medical malpractice lawyer immediately.
Medical Malpractice & Acquired Brain Injury
There are times where brain injury can actually occur as a result of the action (or inaction) of a medical professional, such as a physician, nurse, physician’s assistant, or another individual. In fact, many malpractice cases occur as the result of a miscommunication among your medical team. Here are a few ways a medical professional may commit malpractice leading to injury:
Surgical Error: If you are not properly observed during surgery, you may be at risk for brain injury. For example, it is an anesthesiologist’s job to monitor your vitals, including the amount of oxygen circulating through your blood and into your brain. Prolonged periods of oxygen deprivation can lead to injury, stroke, coma, or death.
Failure to Intubate: If you or a family member is involved in an accident that requires you to be intubated and your medical team does not do so in a timely manner (leading to oxygen deprivation), there can be long-term consequences.
Diagnosis Errors: Physicians are expected to reasonably diagnose or treat any conditions they encounter. If they miss the mark (for example, fail to diagnose a stroke) and fail to make the correct diagnosis when they should have, there may be grounds for medical malpractice.
Spinal Cord Injuries
The spinal cord is comprised of a network of nerves that transmit messages from your brain to your body. If it is injured, it cannot relay these signals. The most common side effect of a spinal cord injury is paralysis. If you have sustained possible trauma to the spinal cord through falling, a blow to the head, or fracture of the pelvis, your doctor will likely take steps to rule out a spinal cord injury. These types of injuries are diagnosed through X-ray, CT, or MRI. Be sure to tell your doctor if you are feeling a loss of sensation, bowel or urinary control problems, or difficulty breathing.
Determining the Extent of Spinal Cord Damage
If doctors suspect a spinal cord injury, they will perform an examination based on the American Spinal Injury Association standards. The ASIA scale is as follows:
- Complete impairment below the level of the injury.
- The patient may retain sensory function, but no motor function.
- There may be some motor and sensory function, but a weakness is present (joints cannot compete with gravity).
- Motor and sensory function are present, and there is enough strength to move against gravity.
- All motor and sensory functions are normal.
Spinal Cord Injuries and Medical Malpractice
Unfortunately, spinal cord injuries can occur as the direct result of medical negligence. Trauma to the spine resulting in paralysis can transpire because of:
- Surgery or Anesthesia. An epidural is a common type of anesthesia, in which a needle is inserted into the spine to deliver narcotic medicines to areas below the waist. Rarely, epidurals can cause a drastic drop in blood pressure, which is why a patient needs to be monitored at all times.
- If this blood pressure drops for an extended period of time, paralysis can result. In surgeries involving the spinal cord, nerves may be accidentally nicked or cut, leading to paralysis. Similarly, a lack of sterile environment can leave a patient vulnerable to infections of the spinal cord.
- Misdiagnosis. If a physician fails to diagnose, erroneously treats, or does not deliver timely treatment for a stroke, he or she may be guilty of medical negligence.
Medical Malpractice Lawyer Serving Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Brain and spinal cord injuries have lasting consequences that affect the patient involved as well as the family members who provide care. If you think you may be eligible for a medical malpractice claim, it is essential that you contact the right Pittsburgh medical malpractice lawyer. Our firm is selective in the types of cases we pursue. For that reason, we offer no-risk, free consultations to our prospective clients. You will only have to pay if we win a settlement or verdict for you. Call us or fill out our online contact form today!