Nerve damage during a surgical procedure can be caused by an error during the administration of anesthesia or a surgeon’s mistake. Surgery involves a degree of risk, but negligence is one of the most common reasons patients end up with nerve injuries. Preventable nerve damage is a form of malpractice.
Post-Operative Nerve Damage
- Neuropraxia: This is the least severe form of nerve damage. It results in a temporary blockage of nerve stimuli but doesn’t change the structure of the nerve. While it causes compression and blood supply interference, it can be repaired.
- Axontmesis: This can lead to motor or sensory paralysis. The injury encompasses a disruption of the neuronal axon. Sensory nerve damage can cause pain, numbness, burning, tingling, and prickling, and loss of position awareness. Motor nerve damage can cause paralysis, weakness, twitching, and muscle atrophy.
- Neurotmesis: This is the most severe kind of never damage. It occurs when a nerve is completely severed. Surgery is mandatory for any recovery.
Surgeon’s Mistake Causing Nerve Damage
Any competent surgeon or anesthetist knows where nerves are and how to handle them, especially the major nerves that control movement and sensation. In most cases, a surgeon has no choice but to operate in close proximity to nerves. Surgical instruments may rub against a nerve, causing inflammation or damage. The slip of a scalpel or any other surgical instrument may clamp, cut, or even burn a nerve. The use of incorrect instruments is another form of medical malpractice that can result in nerve damage.
Anesthesia is administered in three ways: generally, regionally, and locally. A mistake during the administration of any of the three types of anesthesia could lead to devastating nerve damage.
Regional anesthesia involves an injection to the spinal column, which has a thick cluster of nerves that send out signals from the brain. A regional anesthesia mistake can cause permanent damage because the spinal cord cannot self-repair.
General anesthesia will render a patient unconscious, so the body loses its ability to sense discomfort or a pinched nerve. Incorrect positioning of a patient under general anesthesia may result in prolonged pressure on a nerve, which may become damaged if it loses its blood supply. Common nerve damage from positioning errors includes “drop foot” due to sciatic nerve damage, damage to the ulnar nerve caused by the patient lying on his or her arm, or shoulder nerve damage which can affect a person’s ability to use the hand.