To many people who experience ongoing issues in their joints, joint replacement surgery can offer hope of pain relief and improved mobility. Joint replacement surgeries are technically complex and involved. While these procedures are common nowadays, serious injuries and damages may occur if the surgeon and health care providers do not render appropriate medical care. A patient may suffer injuries and damages soon after the surgery or at a later date. Most joint prosthetics need to be replaced over time, so a patient may have a successful initial replacement but a failed revision.
What is joint replacement surgery?
Total joint replacement or arthroplasty is a surgical procedure in which parts of an arthritic or damaged joint are removed and replaced with a metal, plastic, or ceramic device called a prosthesis. The prosthesis is designed to replicate the movement of a normal, healthy joint. A patient will have tried nonsurgical treatments such as medications, physical therapy, and modifications of everyday activities before a doctor will recommend a joint replacement.
The most common joint replacement surgeries are hip and knee replacements. Replacement surgery can be performed on other joints, including the shoulder, ankle, wrist, and elbow. While most replacement surgeries are successful, there are some that fail — often because of medical negligence.
How do you know if your joint replacement has failed?
When a joint replacement does not result in the restoration of function and pain relief, it is possible your joint replacement has failed. Signs of failure in joint replacements can include persistent pain, stiffness, infection, component loosening, fracture, component malposition, or instability.
What kinds of medical negligence may be related to joint replacement failures?
When a health care professional makes a mistake, the patient is the one who has to live with the consequences, often throughout his or her lifetime.
Not all medical errors make up negligence. Medical negligence occurs when a health care provider does not provide an acceptable standard of care. This may be due to human error, oversight, or inadequate procedures.
The following problems could be related to medical negligence in a joint replacement surgery:
- Pre-Surgery Errors
The operation may not be justified. The patient may not be adequately informed of the risks, potential outcomes, and alternatives. The health care provider may fail to obtain informed consent.
- Faulty Prosthetic Component Manufacturing
Improper Prosthetic Choice
The component may be too large or too small. The provider may not test for allergic reactions to one of the components. The components may be incompatible.
Surgical Technical Errors
Surgical technical errors are more under the surgeon’s control than other errors. Malalignment or component instability may be compensable if the problem could have been avoided and there are significant ongoing symptoms or additional operations. Failure to protect surrounding structures can cause excessive damage to organs, tissues, arteries, and nerves, any of which can have lasting impacts on a patient. A surgeon may also be negligent if a fracture is overlooked during surgery or if the osteosynthesis is inadequate.
Delayed postoperative diagnosis and treatment of an infection or other surgical complication may have major impacts on a patient. An infection is not necessarily attributable to negligence. Any surgery has the risk of infection, particularly when a foreign body is introduced. However, delayed diagnosis and treatment of an infection may be below the standard of care and may be compensable if the infection requires additional surgeries, permanent removal of the implant, amputation, or prolonged aftercare.
What should you do if you suspect joint replacement failure?
Go see a doctor. X-rays and other radiological studies may reveal malalignment, improper sizing, or loose bodies floating within the joint. You may be referred for a rehabilitation program or, in cases of serious failure, a revision surgery. A successful revision will require a determination of the problem, a definitive plan for removal of the prosthetic components and a possible plan for reconstruction of the joint. A second opinion may be warranted. If you suspect a problem with the manufacturing of the component, retain the implant.
Consult a lawyer
If you or a loved one suspect negligence in a joint replacement, contact a lawyer as you may be entitled to compensation under the law. There is a legal time limit to submit a medical negligence claim. Contact the lawyers Edmiston & Colton Law Firm to learn your legal rights and see if you have a case. Please visit Edmiston & Colton Law firm at www.yellowstonelaw.com or call (406) 259-9986
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