Unquestionably, the spine – from the neck down to the tailbone – is the most commonly injured body part in car accidents, falls and workers compensation accidents. While bone fractures do occur, more commonly, the intravertebral discs become compressed and permanently mishapen due to an accident – typically referred to a disc that is “bulging,” “protruding,” or “herniated.”
A bulging or herniated disc can press on the spinal cord itself or nerve roots that exit the spinal cord, causing pain, numbness and paralysis. A common symtptom, called “sciatica,” occurs when pain travels from the lower back down into one or both legs. When this happens, surgery is usually the only option to relieve the pressure on the spinal cord or nerve root.
Sucess rates for surgeries to remove the disc and fuse the vetebrae above and below the disc space together are good; however, the risks are huge. Due to the necessarily close proximity of the disc to the nerves being compressed, surgery to remove the disc carries the very real risk of permanent damage to the nerve. Just take a look at any written disclosure of the risks of surgery that a surgeon provides and you will see a parade of lurking horribles, including permanent paralysis. Thankfully, these severe side effects are very rare.
Several medical device manufacturers have developed new technology to make these surgeries safer. Some of the common risks of spinal surgery are excessive bleeding, tears to the dura surround the spinal cord, and leakage of spinal fluid.
One new type of device uses ultrasonic bone emulsification which uses heat generated by radiofrequency and saline to seal the soft tissue and bone being cut during the surgery. In essence the bone is “melted” as it is cut. In this manner, bleeding and leakage of spinal fluid is reduced significantly. The end result is that the spine or nerve roots can be decompressed without the patient suffering collateral injury from excessive bleeding or leakage of spinal fluid.
Many of our personal injury clients decide against having cervical or lumbar fusion surgery because they are understandably concerned about the potential side effects of surgery. The result is that they live with chronic debilitating pain. Hopefully, these advances, along with more on the way, will provide hope to these people and give them a chance to resume a normal product pain free life.
If you have suffered a cervical, thoracic or lumbar spinal injury including bulging or herniated discs, as a result of a car accident, fall or workplace accident in the Jacksonville, FL, area, and have had, or are facing surgery, you should consult with an injury attorney in Jacksonville to be certain that your rights are protected. Consultations, either over the phone, at our law office or at your home are always free.