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Durotomy and medical malpractice

Durotomy refers to small tears made in the spine’s outer membrane, or dura mater. It is sometimes an inevitable result of surgery, though it does not lead to long-term problems if caught and treated in time. When the dural tears are not caught in time or reopen after the second surgery, it can lead to a medical malpractice suit. Illinois patients might want to know about a study analyzing the factors that tip the scales in such lawsuits.

Published in a peer-reviewed medical journal, the study looked into 48 malpractice cases found on three legal databases. Half were filed by males and half by females, and the average age of the plaintiffs was 55 years. The allegations included delays in durotomy diagnosis and treatment, and the injuries ranged from physical weakness to serious conditions like paralysis, brain damage, and even death. The authors found that 27 of the claims ended in verdicts favoring the surgeons, and over 80 percent of those victims with non-neurological complications did not receive any compensation.

The remaining 21 victims received settlements or jury awards averaging about $2.8 million. Male patients, the study claims, are more likely to get a successful outcome in their case. The authors concluded that surgeons will be favored when durotomy is found and treated quickly, but that patients will be favored in cases where tears go unrecognized or reopen after the second surgery.

When a surgical error results in a dural tear, victims may want to consult with an attorney about filing a medical malpractice lawsuit against the health care practitioner or facility. The attorney will consult with one or more medical experts and review the patient’s hospital records and other evidence to see if the error constituted negligence.