Young Man Loses the Use of Muscles in His Leg – $1,600,000 Settlement
Medical Malpractice Resulting In Loss Of Leg Muscles
This case involved a young man who lost the permanent use of his leg due to compartment syndrome. This syndrome is a life-threatening condition where there is insufficient blood being sent to the muscles and nerves to supply the proper oxygen and nutrients needed. As a result, the muscles in his leg atrophied, died and needed to be removed.
A lawsuit was filed on behalf of this young man alleging that after initially suffering a broken leg, the doctor and hospital failed to take proper preventative measures that could have otherwise avoided such a very serious injury. A lawsuit was filed but just prior to a trial taking place, the doctor and hospital agreed to settle for $1,600,000.00 to avoid the uncertainty of a potentially larger jury verdict.
About Compartment Syndrome
Muscles reside within compartments that are covered with fibrous bands of fascia or tissue. When an injury happens, the pressure within these compartments may increase due to bleeding or from the swelling associated with the accumulation of fluids (edema). When the pressure inside the compartment rises to a certain level, compartment syndrome occurs in most people, which then restricts the ability of blood to circulate properly to the nerves and muscles. This is because the tough walls of the compartment cannot expand and most commonly occurs in arms, legs or the abdomen.
When muscles lose their required supply of oxygen supplied through the blood, then may contract, scar, or die, as was the case in our malpractice lawsuit/settlement detailed above. When necrosis (tissue death) occurs, the muscle will need to be removed or in some cases, the person’s limb may need to be amputated to avoid even greater harm.
Causes of Compartment Syndrome Injuries
Exertional or chronic compartment syndrome tends to develop over a period of days or even weeks and is often caused by strenuous, regular exercise. It usually involves the buttock, lower leg or thigh. But the acute syndrome is much more common and develops more quickly, often over the period of just a few hours. The acute version is almost always the result of a severe injury itself, or sometimes from the resulting surgery or casting. Crush injuries or fractures of major bones that result in significant amounts of bleeding such as a break of the ulna, radius, fibula or tibia are often involved.
Failure to Diagnose the Injury
In circumstances where the physician knows that a serious bone break or crush injury has occurred and the patient complains that their limb is tense and that they have numbness and excessive pain, it is vital that the doctor take immediate and appropriate steps to measure the pressure within the affected compartments. This is often done by checking for certain chemical markers as well as an actual measurement of pressure, using a pressure monitoring device attached to a needle which is inserted into the compartment.
When a doctor fails to immediately diagnose this syndrome, damage may happen quickly as the muscle starves of blood-rich oxygen. It may be necessary to perform an emergency fasciotomy in which the orthopedic surgeon releases the pressure by cutting open the fibrous bands surrounding the muscle, thereby releasing pressure and allowing the muscle to swell.