Before understanding how an orthopedic expert witness works with the attorneys, the readers should know what arthroscopy is and what malpractices can take place. Arthroscopy is a surgical procedure in which small incisions are made to insert a tiny camera and diagnose joint problems. It gives better clarity of the joint problems. The surgeon inserts the camera to get a magnified image of the joints on the big TV screen. It is a minimally-invasive procedure with a high rate of recoveries. Surgical errors can take place due to various reasons and anyone who is responsible for the same can be sued by the victim. Any surgical act implies a minimal risk of failure and arthroscopy is no exception. If performed correctly, it can have a positive outcome. Before discussing the complications, let’s discuss what shoulder arthroscopy and why it is needed.
Shoulder arthroscopy: Procedure and complications
In shoulder arthroscopy, the doctor makes use of a tiny camera to visualize the problems of joints and tissues. Unlike open surgery, small incisions or cuts are made through which the camera is inserted to inspect, diagnose, and treat joint problems. This procedure is generally recommended when you have painful conditions or when your body stops responding to non-surgical techniques. Some of the non-surgical procedure includes- physical therapies, rest, injections, or medications that help in reducing swelling and inflammation. Shoulder arthroscopy is an ideal solution for treating painful symptoms of problems that cause damage to the articular cartilage, rotator cuff tendons, and the surrounding tissues and muscles near the joint. Some of the common arthroscopic procedures include- repair of ligaments, rotator cuff repair, ligament repairs, removal of loose cartilage, and others.
What can you expect from this surgery?
You’ll receive general anesthesia for this surgery which means that the surgery site will be made numb to give you a painless treatment. Regional anesthesia may also be given so that you don’t feel any pain. Once it is done, the surgeon will go to the next step.
- Will make small incisions to insert the camera into your shoulder. This arthroscope is attached to a TV screen in the room to get a magnified image.
- Will monitor the problems in your shoulder joints and tissues that include- bones, cartilage, tendons, and ligaments.
- Once the problem is detected, the doctor will repair the damages. For this process, few more incisions might be needed to insert other equipment through it. The damages in the tissues or in the joints are fixed by removing them.
- Once the surgery is complete, the doctor will stitch the cuts and will cover it with a bandage.
The reputed surgeons will always take photos and videos while the procedure was done and this is kept as proof to show what they found and how the damages are fixed.
Long term Results of Shoulder arthroscopy:
The long term results of the procedure will depend on the physical condition and the experience of the surgeon. As far as the long term outcome is concerned, recovery will vary from one individual to the other. In case of minor injuries, you might recover within a short time with proper post-surgical care and rehabilitation. But in case of complicated procedures or patients having serious medical conditions may take time to recover. For example, people having diabetes may take a longer time to recover than the ones who aren’t diabetic. It might take months or even a year to completely recover after surgery. It’s the duty of the doctor to frame a guideline that you should follow after the procedure for a better outcome. However, if you don’t recover, you can seek medico-legal guidance from an orthopedic expert witness through the help of an attorney. This will help you to recover damages that have been caused. An orthopedic witness can explain the reasons why the patient is facing serious complications or what steps a competent medical professional should have taken to prevent such complexities. This will not only help in building the case but also simplify the entire process. You can expect a better outcome when you have an orthopedic expert witness by your side.
Malpractices in shoulder arthroscopy:
Though arthroscopic surgery has high success rates, people do suffer from complications either due to the negligence of the doctor or due to contributory negligence. You can file a lawsuit against your surgeon if you’ve been injured because of the negligence of the surgeon. In order to determine a case of malpractice, you’ll need the help of an orthopedic expert witness and this is possible only when you seek legal representation. These expert witnesses are called upon by the attorney to establish the grounds on which the surgeon could be held accountable. In other words, this expert will help in understanding how the doctor was negligent and what another doctor of the same credibility would have done under the same circumstances. Hence, the role of expert witnesses in malpractice cases is important!
Below is a comprehensive list of the complications that you might face after shoulder arthroscopy. If you feel that you or your loved ones have faced any of them due to negligence by the medical professionals, you should immediately get in touch with a malpractice attorney.
One of the common side-effects is joint infections. However, this problem should subside within a few days. If the infection doesn’t subside, then there might be a case of malpractice.
After a shoulder operation, you might face some difficulty in moving your shoulders but that should be temporary. The overall risk of stiffness is nearly 5%.
Another rare yet severe complication found after shoulder arthroscopy is Chondrolysis. It is the damage caused to the cartilage of the shoulder joints and this problem is more visible in athletes.
These are rare complications but it can have devastating effects if permanent. The main nerves that are at high risk of damage are the Axillary and the Musculocutaneous nerve.
Besides this, there are various other types of injuries which can be stated as follows:
- Traction injuries– Due to the use of excessive traction during surgery, the nerves surrounding the shoulder can stretch causing injury.
- Anesthetic injuries– Before surgery, the patients are given local anesthesia to numb the area of surgery. The doctors should ask the patients if they are allergic to anesthesia. Only 0.4% of the patients get affected by anesthesia and can have prolonged effects.
- Direct injury– The surgeons while performing the surgery should be able to prevent direct injury to the nerves around the shoulders.
Role of orthopedic expert witnesses in shoulder arthroscopy:
It’s quite clear from the above discussion that shoulder arthroscopy is also exposed to several risks. Hence, the doctor needs to evaluate the medical condition and other details of the patient prior to surgery. Remember that the success of the surgery depends on your physical condition and the skills of the surgeon. Complications and errors are not a rare occurrence but such an event gives way to medical malpractice. So if you face any severe complications that cause loss of income or loss of enjoyment of life, you can file a case against that medical professional. Before understanding the role of an orthopedic expert witness in a shoulder arthroscopy case, below mentioned is a list of things that every surgeon should do before performing surgery.
- The surgeon must lay emphasis on the risks and benefits of the surgery. The surgeon should provide detailed information on the procedure both in verbal and written forms. This is done to receive consent from the patient.
- Should remind the patients regarding the delicate procedures involved in the surgery.
- Make acquainted with the profession and its implications, risks, and expected outcomes, as well as the enormity of an eventual medical error.
If the medical professional deviates from the standards or if they fail to convey all the risks and benefits; or fail to obtain the consent of the patient; then the latter can file a lawsuit and seek compensation for the damages caused to them.
To file a lawsuit, you need to get in touch with an attorney, and the attorney in turn will call upon an orthopedic expert witness to determine if there has been a fault on the part of the surgeon. This is very crucial or else there can be counter-attacks from the defense. At times, the plaintiff can also be penalized for putting in wrong allegations. Therefore, the experts along with the attorney will establish that there has been malpractice. Once evidence is found, the lawsuit will be filed against the surgeon or anyone who is responsible for the injury. An orthopedic expert witness has multiple roles to play and is beneficial to all the parties- plaintiff, the defendant, and the jury. The defendant’s attorney can also appoint an expert witness. The case reviews and the facts prepared by the expert witnesses are produced before the court.
Medical malpractices are highly technical and involve certain complex elements. Neither the jury nor the solicitors have in-depth knowledge of these complex matters and this is when an attorney will call upon an orthopedic expert witness to understand these complex matters. They’ll critically analyze the case and prepare a report based on that. These reports are unbiased and free from any other outer influence. Besides this, there is a deadline within which the case needs to be filed. In California, this deadline is known as the statute of limitations which you’ll get to learn in the next section.
The statute of limitations in California:
The lawsuit filing has to be done as soon as injuries are found. The official statute of limitations in California is 3 years after the injury and once you file the case, you have 365 days to commence the action. The defendant has to be served a notice by the plaintiff at least 3 months before filing a lawsuit. No letter formatting is needed but certain things have to be laid out:
- The legal basis of the claim
- Type of loss claimed
- Nature of the injuries sustained
However, there are certain exceptions to California’s statute of limitations which has been stated below.
- Firstly, if the surgeon has left a foreign object inside the patient’s body, then the lawsuit can be filed anytime after the final discovery of the object. Therefore, there will be no such deadline in this matter. For example, if a patient discovers a foreign object after 10 years, the lawsuit can be filed after 10 years. In that case, the patient will get a year’s time from the time of discovery to file the lawsuit.
- Secondly, if the medical professional commits fraud by trying to fix up the misconduct, then there won’t be any such deadline for the matter.
Importance of seeking legal representation:
Getting your compensation would be a difficult affair especially if you are not familiar with the legal system. But with the help of the right attorneys, you can easily fight your case. Remember that medical malpractice lawsuits will need the guidance of an orthopedic expert witness to under the complex matters. Unless you seek legal representation, you won’t be able to get medico-legal guidance. An experienced attorney can help get your compensation for all the damages caused to you. It includes reimbursement for things like- lost wages, medical bills, transportation costs, pain and suffering, rehabilitation and so much more.
If you believe that there has been injured because of the negligence of the doctor, get in touch with the best lawyers in California as they can represent you in the court with strong facts and arguments. Also, they’ll make the case strong by retaining an orthopedic expert witness to get neutral case reviews. These documents are crucial because the attorney may submit it to the jury. Although the decision of these expert witnesses is not binding, the jury cannot understand the medical complexities without their help. So, retaining a lawyer is a must in a shoulder arthroscopy malpractice case!