On June 8, 2013, an Illinois medical malpractice jury awarded an 82-old-woman $1,066,000.00 in compensatory damages for injuries she suffered when her surgeon cut her median nerve during carpal tunnel surgery. The medical malpractice defendants argued that injury to the median nerve during carpel tunnel surgery is a known risk of the surgery but the medical malpractice jury found that the woman’s nerve damage was due to the medical negligence of the surgeon who performed her surgery.
The Median Nerve
The median nerve runs from the forearm through the carpal tunnel (a passageway) in the wrist to the hand and it provides sensation to the palm side of the thumb and fingers and it provides for motor function of the muscles around the thumb. The median nerve can become irritated, compressed, or crowded due to a fracture or other injury or inflammation and swelling from rheumatoid arthritis or other disease process or medical condition that causes the narrowing of the carpal tunnel, thereby leading to compression of the median nerve. People may have carpal tunnel syndrome on one side or both sides of the body (between 59% and 78% of people who have carpal tunnel syndrome have it on both sides). Source
Symptoms Of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome may start with a vague aching in the wrist that may extend into the hand or forearm. As it progresses (usually gradually), symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome may include a sensation of tingling or numbness in the hand or fingers, usually involving the thumb, the index finger, the middle finger, or the ring finger, but not effecting the little finger. The numbness may become constant as the syndrome progresses.
Other symptoms may include radiating pain from the wrist up the arm and into the shoulder, or pain radiating down into the palm of the hand or fingers, especially after repetitive use or forceful use of the hand and wrist that typically causes radiating pain on the palm side of the forearm. As the disorder progresses, there is often a feeling of weakness in the effected hand and a tendency to drop things on that side (carpal tunnel syndrome can effect either side or both sides).
Treatment Of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
If the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome are mild to moderate and have lasted less than ten months, conservative treatments ranging from resting the hands or taking frequent breaks from repetitive use to splinting, the use of cold packs, and medications may be effective in treating the symptoms. Surgery may become necessary if the symptoms are severe or debilitating. The goal of carpal tunnel surgery (done endoscopically or by open surgery) is to relieve the pressure on the median nerve by cutting the ligament that is pressing on the nerve (the ligament will heal after surgery and will allow for more room for the median nerve).
Risks Of Carpal Tunnel Release Surgery
The risks of so-called carpal tunnel release surgery include allergic reaction to medications, bleeding, infection, scar sensitivity, injury to the median nerve and other nerves that branch off of the median nerve, and injury to other nerves, arteries, or veins. Some people who have carpal tunnel release surgery (10% to 30%) experience some loss of wrist strength after the surgery.
In a U.K. study of 6263 patients who underwent carpal tunnel release surgery, 49% reported that they were cured, 28% reported that they were much better, 10% were slightly better, 6% were unchanged, and 7% were worse off than before the surgery.
If your carpal tunnel surgery resulted in a bad outcome, you may be the victim of medical malpractice.
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