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Your guide to nerve damage

Diagram of nerve pain

Nerve damage is one of the most common injuries suffered by patients caused by surgical error. This is because surgeons are constantly at risk of harming the 100 billion neurons running along the system of nerves they are in direct contact with as they perform operations.

The slightest mistake can cause nervous damage leading to: 

  • Loss of sensation
  • Severe pain
  • Paralysis – in the most severe cases

If a surgeon fails to identify a nerve, which is accidentally severed or damaged there could be long-term loss of function of the body part controlled by a particular nerve and even disability for the rest of a patient’s life.

Injury to a nerve caused by error or negligence can have a traumatic impact upon the whole family, especially if damage was avoidable and if sufficient, appropriate care had not been taken during a treatment procedure.

An explanation is not always straightforward

While a hospital trust has a legal ‘Duty of Candour’ to both inform and apologise to patients if mistakes have been made while in their care, it may not always be straightforward to obtain a proper explanation as to what happened and where the responsibility may lay.

If you or a member of your family have good reason to believe that an avoidable error occurred during treatment of surgery your first step should be to seek the professional advice of a legal expert. It is also crucial that they are clinical negligence specialists with in-depth knowledge and experience of the key medical issues together with a sympathetic and sensitive understanding of how everyone involved is affected.

Your Legal Friend is  experienced in successfully resolving many different types of clinical negligence cases. We can help you find out the reason why you or a member of your family were not given the duty of care owed, and crucially, obtain  compensation to ensure the future financial needs of providing the necessary special care, support, treatment and equipment will be properly met.

There are many types of nerves...

The human nervous system is complex. There are many different types of nerves, all performing different functions, which can be damaged.

  • One set of nerves only carries information from sensory receptors to the central nervous system.
  • Other nerves only carries signals to parts of the body from the central nervous system.
  • A third type are mixed nerves that contain both functions at the same time.

There are also two nervous systems:

One system of nerves governs voluntary movements, reflexes and semi-automatic movements, such as maintaining balance, posture, walking as well as receiving messages from the skin and the sensory organs, e.g. the eyes and ears.

A second system regulates unconscious functions, including  breathing, digestion, heart rhythm, blood circulation, excretion, etc and the involuntary movements of organs and glands.

There are  31 pairs of mixed nerves (sensory and motor) emerging from the spinal cord, which connect all parts of the body, except the face, which is controlled by nerves directly from the brain.

What are the symptoms of nerve damage?

  • Loss of feeling and sensation
  • Weakening muscles
  1. - legs or arms feel heavy                       
  2. - difficulty lifting up foot or toes                        
  3. - picking up or holding objects, or manipulating them in your hand
  • Pain or an unpleasant sensation
  1. - feeling ‘pins and needles’ or ‘burning’ in the arm or leg                                  
  2. - feeling ‘cold’ in the arm or leg 

Ways in which clinical negligence can cause nerve damage

There are a number of common causes of nerve damage, which can occur if insufficient, appropriate care is not taken by a surgeon, doctor or nurse while undergoing a hospital procedure or treatment.

Clinical negligence associated with nerve damage can be caused by:

Direct physical damage

  • Different procedures including cutting, burning, stretching or compression.
  • Excessive physical traction.
  • Direct compression to a nerve when applying a tourniquet.
  • Unwarranted nerve pressure due to improper positioning of the body during a surgical operation.
  • Excessive force used to deliver a baby leading to an injury in the brachial plexus.

Needle / injection damage

  • Inadequate equipment used in surgery causing inflammation to the nerve.
  • Local anaesthetic errors through lack of precautions taken when using a syringe/ needle.
  • Needle used to take blood samples causes nerve damage to the arm.
  • Further damage to spinal nerves when undertaking surgery to the vertebrae.
  • Administration of certain toxic drugs.
  • Improper administration of anti blood clotting drugs.
  • Inadvertent injection of certain drugs into or around the surrounding area of a nerve.

Blood supply / pressure damage

  • Insufficient blood supply causing oxygen starvation to the nerves.
  • Blood pressure build up in the vicinity of a nerve due to a damaged blood vessel.

Common types of surgery which can cause nerve damage

While a surgeon and his team may have put into place appropriate procedures and will take extreme care to avoid an error being made, nerves can still be severed or damage inadvertently takes place.

Known procedures where  injuries caused to nerves can occur:

  • Hip/knee replacement
  • Hernia
  • Removal of a tumour

How Your Legal Friend can help you..

If a surgical error or treatment procedure causes injury to a nerve, which results in physical impairment or a severe disability, you will want to find out why your hospital failed you in their duty of care.

As experienced clinical negligence specialists, we know that you or a member of your family will be feeling devastated that procedures may have fallen below the expected, appropriate standard. Our task is to ensure your voice will be heard and your case is made in order to bring the doctor, hospital, health trust or another medical practitioner to account for the harm and suffering caused.

Your Legal Friend  is committed to ensuring victims of clinical negligence obtain answers and receive both justice for mistakes made and compensation to ensure future medical treatment and care needs are properly met.