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Spinal Stimulator Implants: Surgical Errors

Spinal Stimulator Implants: Surgical Errors
There are risks associated with every operation, but competent surgical care can alleviate many of these risks. Surgical errors may occur during operations, pre-operative care, or post-operative care. These errors often take the form of hemorrhage, infections, surgery on the wrong side of the body, surgery performed on the wrong organ, organ perforation or general injuries to nearby structures. Specific examples of overt errors include: doctors using contaminated instruments, doctors leaving sponges inside a body, or simply doctors who recommend ineffective procedures. Lately, spinal stimulator surgery, in particular, has prompted widespread concerns over medical guidelines and physician training.

In New York, spinal stimulator implants are used to treat chronic back problems. Spinal stimulators are implanted near the spinal cord and generate low-current pulses of electricity that are believed to mask pain signals from the spine to the brain. Currently, it is estimated that 50,000 US patients receive spinal stimulator implants every year. The three leading manufacturers sell spinal stimulators for up to $60,000 per device.

According to one study conducted by a manufacturer, less than 10 percent of patients treated with conventional methods experienced at least a 50 percent decrease in pain over a set period of time. Meanwhile, almost 50 percent of spinal-stimulator implant patients experienced the same results. However, up to 25 percent of implant patients required further surgeries to address related complications.

Recently, the FDA reported that 58 cases of spinal stimulator-related paralysis occurred in the last year alone. Beyond that, one university-led study found that some level of nerve and/or spinal damage was sustained by approximately 1 percent of implant patients.

While there is a limited amount of independent findings on the subject, some experts attribute surgical errors and paralysis rates in spinal stimulator patients to poor training guidelines and standards for physicians. A lack of medical oversight may also play a role.

All healthcare providers, including registered nurses, doctors, surgeons, licensed nurses, dentists, pharmacists and physical therapists, are legally required to provide their patients with quality medical care. When these providers act negligently or irresponsibly, they can be held legally liable for their deviation from the appropriate standard medical care. 

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