If you’re experiencing nerve pain after surgery, it will typically resolve within two to three months after your procedure without medical intervention other than pain medications. If your pain gets worse or lasts longer than three months, it may be related to some type of nerve damage caused by your surgical procedure.
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What Does the Central Nervous System Do?
Think of the central nervous system as the body’s processing center, made up of the brain and the spinal cord. The brain controls most bodily functions including awareness, movement, thought, and speech, as well as the five senses of hearing, touch, sight, smell, and taste. The spinal cord acts as an extension of the brain and carries messages to and from the brain via the network of connected peripheral nerves. These nerves also connect the spinal cord to a part of the brain called the brain stem, which is located at the base of the brain. The brain stem is important for normal breathing, blood pressure, and the body’s response to stress and danger.
Your central nervous system impacts every aspect of your health, including the aging process, balance and coordination, breathing and heartbeat patterns, digestion, hunger, and thirst, healing from illness and injury, and sleep patterns. When nerve damage occurs, you can experience a variety of symptoms including changes in your behavior or memory, headaches, loss of coordination or muscle movements, numbness or tingling in your arms or legs, slurred speech, vision problems, and mild or severe pain.
Errors That May Cause Nerve Damage During Surgery
Nerve damage frequently occurs from car accidents, falls, and other types of trauma that result in injuries. It also occurs from surgical procedures, which result in nerve pain and damage that can cause permanent health issues and disabilities. Some of the most common causes of nerve pain after surgery include:
- Blocked blood flow caused by improper patient positioning
- Cuts from a needle or surgical knife
- Postoperative inflammation from an infection
- Pressure on a nerve
- Tourniquet compression
- Surgical mesh that’s improperly applied
How to Prevent Nerve Damage
To prevent nerve damage during a surgical procedure, anesthesiologists and surgeons must take necessary safety precautions with surgery patients. When nerves are compressed, cut, or pinched during surgery, proper blood flow is restricted to limbs and vital organs. This can result in a variety of health issues, including difficulty walking, stiff movements, hearing and speech problems, nerve sensitivity after surgery, severe pain, and many other conditions that result in lifelong disabilities. If nerve damage after surgery is the result of medical errors or medical negligence by anesthesiologists and surgeons, the patient can file a lawsuit with a Chicago medical malpractice lawyer, who can recover compensation for damages.
What Are the Long-Term Impacts of Nerve Damage?
Peripheral nerves send messages from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body. They impact almost every bodily function and help to control body temperature and normal breathing. Peripheral nerves are made up of fibers called axons that are insulated by surrounding tissues in the body. Peripheral nerves are fragile and can be easily damaged. When that happens, a nerve injury can impact the brain’s ability to communicate with all organs and muscles in the body.
Signs of Nerve Damage
With a peripheral nerve injury, you may experience symptoms that range from mild to severe, seriously limiting your daily activities. Your symptoms often depend on which nerve fibers are damaged:
Motor nerves regulate all the muscles under your conscious control, such as those used for talking, walking, and holding objects. Damage to motor nerves is typically associated with loss of coordination and balance, muscle weakness, painful muscle cramps, and uncontrollable muscle twitching.
Sensory nerves relay information about body temperature, touch, and pain. You can experience a variety of symptoms when sensory nerves are damaged. These include extreme changes in body temperature, dizziness, loss of dexterity in the hands, numbness or tingling in the hands and feet, and balance problems.
Autonomic nerves regulate activities that are not controlled consciously, such as breathing, digesting food, and thyroid function. When autonomic nerves are damaged, symptoms may include changes in blood pressure, excessive sweating, gastrointestinal problems, and the inability to tolerate heat.
Common signs and symptoms of nerve damage include:
- Chronic pain (mild or severe)
- Loss of motor function
- Loss of feeling or numbness or tingling in the arms or legs
How Long Does Surgical Nerve Damage Last?
When nerve damage after surgery occurs, you can expect it to last up to two to three months, and then begin to fade or improve. Healing depends on the type of nerve damage that occurs, the severity of the damage, and whether the damage can be repaired with rest or another surgical procedure. When nerve damage impacts walking and movement, there are important things to consider before getting surgery. In many cases, when nerve damage is severe, the damage cannot be reversed or healed completely, even with surgery. Unfortunately, damage to the nervous system is often a progressive condition that gets worse with age.
When Are Surgical Errors Considered Medical Malpractice?
Under the law, anesthesiologists, doctors, and surgeons are held to a certain standard of care they must provide for every patient. This standard of care dictates that the patient must not suffer harm due to a medical professional’s negligent or improper actions. During surgical procedures, patients must be protected from nerve damage and provided the best post-operative care to prevent nerve damage after surgery. When an anesthesiologist or surgeon falls below that standard of care, he or she can be liable for negligent actions that result in a medical malpractice lawsuit for damages.
Normal Nerve Damage After Surgery
Most persistent post-surgical pain is the result of some type of nerve damage, which can be due to the original medical problem or the surgical procedure. Nerve pain is usually identified by symptoms of neuropathic (nerve) pain such as burning pain, shooting pain, numbness, tingling, feeling of pins and needles, changes in physical sensation, and sensitivity to temperature or touch.
In some cases involving accidents, nerve pain can be a sign of healing. Patients may experience pain symptoms as the nerves regenerate. However, nerve pain after surgery is not typically a sign of regenerating nerves, but rather a sign of a more serious condition that needs medical attention. Most nerve pain after surgery is treated with pharmaceutical interventions, including anticonvulsants to help treat certain types of postoperative nerve pain (neuralgia), nerve blocks if the neuralgia is severe, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or Tylenol (acetaminophen) to treat mild to moderate pain, and opioid drugs to treat moderate to severe pain.
Compensation for Medical Malpractice in Illinois
Medical malpractice is defined as any act or omission by a medical professional during the treatment of a patient that deviates from the accepted norms of practice in the medical field. For a medical malpractice lawsuit to be successful, the victim must prove that the medical professional deviated from the accepted standard of care, and that deviation resulted in harm. To win compensation for damages, you must know how to prove medical malpractice according to state laws.
When a lawsuit is filed in civil court and is successful, the injured party is entitled to recover compensation for both economic and non-economic damages. Illinois has no cap on the amount of damages that can be awarded in a medical malpractice lawsuit.
- Economic Damages – Economic damages include compensation for the injured party’s medical expenses, lost wages due to time away from work, or loss of a job due to injury. If the party suffers permanent injuries or disabilities, compensation may also include expenses for mobility aids, transportation, and home-based health care.
- Non-Economic Damages – Non-economic damages include compensation for things that cannot be measured or calculated in monetary value. This includes compensation for the injured party’s physical and mental pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of companionship, and loss of enjoyment of normal life activities.
Illinois requires patients to show proof of medical malpractice before filing a lawsuit. One piece of evidence that supports this is an Affidavit of Merit. This document is drafted by a knowledgeable healthcare professional in a relevant field. The affidavit must state that, in the opinion of the medical professional, the medical malpractice claim filed by the victim is reasonable and has merit.
In Illinois, medical malpractice lawsuits must be filed in court within two years from the date of the injury, If your lawsuit is not filed within the required time frame, your case will be dismissed and you cannot collect compensation for your injuries. However, in Illinois, the discovery rule applies. This means that the deadline to file a lawsuit does not typically become active until the injured party discovers, or reasonably should have discovered, the medical professional’s act of negligence or medical malpractice.