One of the things that come with aging is the increase in the number of aches and pains we deal with. With all the advanced techniques and devices in medicine, many patients have found solutions to those aches and pains by undergoing ankle, knee, hip, shoulder, and back surgeries. As the number of those procedures has spiked over the past few years, studies show that many are unnecessary surgeries and downright dangerous for the patient.
Spinal surgery in particular has become so routine for patients that business is booming for both orthopedic surgeons and the hospitals where they conduct those surgeries. According to one report, the sales of spinal surgery instruments, implants, medications, and other treatments for chronic back pain are astronomical, currently at $10 billion per year but expected to almost double that within the next 10 years.
Spike in Procedures
Studies show that the average age when patients begin reporting back pain and looking for relief is around the age of 42 years. But more and more patients are being told that relief will only come through spinal fusion surgery. This procedure involves decompression, where the patient’s back is opened, and bone that is pinching nerves is cut out, as well as spinal fusion, where the surgeon uses a bone graft in order to weld the patient’s vertebrae together. There is also usually a medical device used for stabilizing in this procedure.
While spinal fusion surgery can be helpful for patients who suffer from arthritis and other congenital conditions or who have experienced some kind of traumatic injury, the concern is that the procedure is being recommended too much and even when it is unnecessary, including being recommended by doctors for conditions where there are questions about its effectiveness.
In many cases, the patient ends up worse off following the surgery than they were before because the solid bone fusion the surgeon creates lacks flexibility and movement. One major investigation raises questions about the questionable involvement of the medical device industry in promoting spinal fusion surgeries by citing the following statistics:
- Between 2014 and 2017, the implantable medical device market’s worth reached more than $211 billion.
- Approximately 70 percent of all orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons received payments from medical device manufacturers. Orthopedic surgeons in particular received 35 percent of payments from the top 10 medical device manufacturing companies between 2014 to 2017, totaling almost $830 million.
It has been pointed out by medical critics of the alarming rise in the number of these procedures that the human spine of a 50- or 60-year-old is not much different than that of past generations. These critics question whether the average cost of spinal fusion surgery – averaging $110,000 – has anything to do with the sudden recommendation for so many patients that could find relief for their back pain using other methods that are not so invasive and so dangerous.
Back pain is a common ailment that can significantly impact a person’s quality of life. For some individuals, the prospect of finding relief from chronic back pain leads them to consider surgical options. However, there are unfortunate cases where unnecessary back surgeries are performed, causing physical, emotional, and financial harm to patients. In such instances, individuals may pursue unnecessary back surgery lawsuits to hold responsible parties accountable and seek compensation for their suffering.
Unnecessary back surgery occurs when a surgical procedure is performed on a patient without a legitimate medical indication or without exhausting less invasive treatment options. These surgeries may range from spinal fusions to discectomies and laminectomies. Common scenarios where unnecessary back surgeries may occur include:
- Misdiagnosis: When a patient’s back pain is misdiagnosed, leading to an operation that does not address the underlying issue.
- Failure to exhaust conservative treatments: Physicians may recommend surgery without attempting less invasive treatments first, such as physical therapy, pain management, or medication.
- Inadequate informed consent: Patients are entitled to a thorough understanding of the risks, benefits, and alternatives to a recommended procedure. In cases of inadequate informed consent, patients may undergo surgery without fully grasping the consequences.
- Pressure for profit: Some surgeons or medical facilities prioritize financial gain over patient welfare, potentially pushing individuals into surgeries they do not need.
Key Elements in Unnecessary Back Surgery Lawsuits
Initiating a lawsuit for unnecessary back surgery requires several essential elements:
- Establishing negligence: Plaintiffs must prove that the surgeon or healthcare provider deviated from the accepted standard of care in their profession. This entails demonstrating that a competent medical professional would not have recommended or performed the surgery under similar circumstances.
- Demonstrating causation: Establishing a direct link between the unnecessary surgery and the resulting harm or injuries is crucial. This can be challenging, as patients may already have underlying health issues that complicate the determination of causation.
- Informed Consent: If a patient did not provide informed consent for the surgery, this can strengthen the case for an unnecessary back surgery lawsuit. Informed consent mandates clear and comprehensive communication of the procedure’s risks, benefits, and alternatives.
- Proof of damages: To pursue a lawsuit, the plaintiff must have experienced tangible damages, such as physical harm, emotional distress, additional medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Have You Been a Victim of Unnecessary Surgery?
Every surgery has some kind of risk involved, but a surgery that is not necessary to begin with can result in serious injury to the patient.
If you or a loved one has suffered injuries as a result of unnecessary surgery or a surgical error on the part of medical personnel, contact a skilled Virginia malpractice attorney to discuss what legal options you may have against those parties who are responsible for those injuries. Our legal team has successfully represented many clients who have suffered as a result of medical negligence.
Our Virginia wrongful death attorneys have also aggressively advocated for families whose loved ones died as a result of medical malpractice in obtaining the financial damages they deserved for the losses they suffered.
Call Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp today to schedule a free consultation and find out how we can help.
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