Spinal Cord Infarction

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Spinal infarction is a rare condition but often results in permanent spinal cord damage. Spinal cord infarction involves a blockage of the blood supply to the spinal cord. Blockage can occur in the spinal cord itself or in the arteries that supply blood to the area. 

In some cases, the cause of spinal cord infarction is undetermined. However, if you or a family member suffered a spinal cord injury due to infarction, do not just accept the hospital’s answer that they don’t know what caused it. Spinal cord infarction could be caused by medical negligence. 

If a doctor negligently caused spinal cord infarction or failed to properly treat the blockage, the injury victim may have a claim for damages. Contact your medical malpractice attorney to understand your rights. 

Spinal Cord Infarction and Blood Supply

Like other major tissues and systems in the body, a regular supply of oxygenated blood to the spinal cord is required for proper function. Even a minor or temporary reduction in blood or oxygen supply can lead to cell damage and breakdown of the nervous system. The spinal cord is made up of very sensitive tissues and any damage or injury can lead to permanent damage. 

Infarction is obstruction of the blood supply to an organ or region of tissue in the body. Obstructions can be caused by thrombus or embolus, including a blood clot, air bubble, fat globule, or atherosclerotic plaque. Infarction can most seriously impact the major organs, including the brain, lungs, heart, and spinal cord. 

When the blood supply and oxygen supply to the spinal cord are interrupted, the cells begin to die. Cell death can occur within minutes or hours of the infarction, depending on the extent of the blockage and where the blockage occurs. Some cells may be able to recover after reperfusion of oxygenated blood but even the cells that recover may die within 48 hours. After the cells die, it may lead to permanent damage in the area of the spinal cord infarction. 

The common causes of spinal cord infarction can vary based on age. In children and infants, spinal cord infarction may be caused by trauma (such as a traumatic birth injury), or congenital heart malformations. In adults, the most common cause of spinal cord infarction is related to atherosclerosis, or thickening of the arterial walls. Adult spinal cord infarction may also be caused by trauma or other health conditions. 

Signs and Symptoms of Spinal Cord Infarction

Spinal cord infarction can be difficult to diagnose because it is more rare than other types of infarction (heart and brain). Symptoms generally develop quickly, usually within about 12 hours. The signs and symptoms may also appear similar to other types of injuries, including transverse myelitis. Some of the common symptoms of spinal cord infarction may include:   

  • Sharp or burning back pain
  • Aching back and leg pain
  • Loss of bladder control
  • Loss of bowel control
  • Weakness in the legs
  • Loss of sensation of pain and temperature
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Flaccidity
  • Paralysis

The area of the body impacted may depend on where the infarction is located. The primary supply of blood comes from the single anterior spinal artery and two posterior spinal arteries. Anterior spinal artery infarction is more common than posterior spinal artery infarction. Additionally, injury to the lower spinal cord may present with paraplegia and higher spinal cord injuries may develop quadriplegia.

Diagnosing a spinal cord infarction may benefit from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to show the location of a spinal cord abnormality. 

Spinal cord infarction is associated with a low rate of recovery. Many patients who suffer a spinal cord infarction are left with permanent spinal cord damage, are unable to walk, and require urinary catheterization. However, patients with smaller infarcts may be able to recover and walk independently. 

Medical Malpractice in Spinal Cord Infarction

Spinal cord infarction can be caused by a medical mistake. Medical malpractice in spinal cord infarction can be generally categorized as negligent care which causes a spinal cord infarction, or failure to diagnose an infarction, increasing the damage caused by an infarction. 

Time is of the essence with compromised oxygen and blood supply. Seconds and minutes count when the brain or spinal cord is deprived of oxygen. Any delay in diagnosis can increase the risk of permanent injury and nervous system damage. 

If a patient complains of back pain to a doctor and there are other indicators that it may be associated with spinal cord damage, the patient would expect the doctor to get an MRI to look for anything abnormal on the spinal cord scan. If a patient is just sent home with some pain killers, they may suffer permanent damage caused by the failure to diagnose the injury. 

When a blood clot is dislodged, it can travel to other parts of the body and block the arteries or veins. When a patient is at a higher risk of developing a blood clot, their doctors should be aware of the signs of a potential infarction, ischemia, or stroke. A risk of developing blood clots can be higher with: 

  • Bed-bound individuals
  • Pregnancy
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • After surgery
  • Certain infections and cancers

When a doctor or healthcare professional breaches their duty of care, they may be liable to the patient for any injuries or harm. Spinal injury mistakes often result in paraplegia, quadriplegia, or partial paralysis. If the injury was caused by medical negligence, the party responsible should be held accountable to pay for the cost of living with a permanent injury. 

Spinal Cord Infarction Malpractice Attorneys

Many spinal cord infarction injuries are considered idiopathic, or spontaneously occurring with an unknown cause. Telling a patient that they suffered a life-changing injury and the doctors have no explanation for the cause can be devastating. However, some spinal cord infarctions may be caused by medical malpractice and it is up to the patient to get answers. 

At Gilman & Bedigian, we will use our experience, knowledge, and dedication to investigate medical accidents to determine the cause of the injury and find out who is to blame. Our aggressive trial lawyers have helped our clients recover millions of dollars in compensation related to spinal cord injuries caused by medical error. Contact us online or call our law office at (800) 529-6162 for a free consultation.

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