When Medical Malpractice Causes Spinal Cord and Back Injuries

As one of the highest-stakes medical procedures, spinal surgery can go wrong even for surgeons with enormous talent, training, and care. Not every mistake constitutes malpractice; but when medical malpractice and spinal surgery do overlap, the results are tragic.

The question after this happens becomes: who pays? When spinal surgery goes wrong, how can families even begin to recover?

For forty years, our Memphis medical malpractice firm has helped people through some of the hardest times of their lives. Here’s what to know about medical malpractice and spinal surgery, including what to do if you have a case.

Spinal Surgery Malpractice a Well-Known Problem in Memphis

The risks of spinal surgery hit primetime in recent years with the popularity of the Dr. Death series. In this true crime podcast that was later made into a TV series, a surgeon based in Memphis committed horrific errors in back surgeries, including on his best friend, as a result of undertraining, overconfidence, and alleged fraud and substance abuse.

In reality, with the exception of this famous example, medical malpractice in spinal surgery generally happens at the same rate as the national average. However, spinal surgery does lead to more malpractice cases than many other types of surgery, because the stakes are much higher.

The High Stakes of Back and Spinal Surgeries

Any spinal surgery is a complicated and significant medical intervention, and the stakes couldn’t be more critical.

The spine plays a central role in the body’s structure and function, housing the spinal cord and supporting the body’s weight. Consequently, any surgical procedure involving the spine carries inherent risks and implications for a patient’s overall well-being.

Any error or complication during spinal surgery can have profound consequences, potentially leading to:

  • permanent disability
  • nerve damage
  • paralysis
  • or even loss of life.

In addition, many individuals seeking spinal surgery are already grappling with chronic pain, neurological issues, or spinal deformities. Their decision to undergo surgery is usually a last-resort option.

Even if you were getting treated by the best surgeon in the world, you’d still probably be nervous about this type of surgery. And at the same time, not every injury necessarily means medical malpractice.

Examples of Common Medical Malpractice and Spinal Surgery Claims

Nerve Damage

Injuries to nerves during spinal surgery can result in serious complications, including numbness, weakness, or paralysis in the affected areas of the body. Nerve damage may occur due to surgical errors, such as misplaced instruments or improper handling of delicate nerve structures.


Postoperative infections are a significant concern in spinal surgery. Inadequate sterilization procedures, unsanitary surgical environments, or improper wound care can lead to infections. If a patient develops a post-surgical infection that causes additional harm or complications, it may be grounds for a malpractice claim.

Hardware Failure

Spinal surgery often involves the use of implants such as screws, rods, or artificial discs. If these devices fail due to manufacturing defects, improper installation, or inadequate follow-up care, patients may experience severe pain, instability, or the need for revision surgeries.

Failed Fusion or Misalignment

In procedures like spinal fusion, the goal is to stabilize the spine by fusing vertebrae. If the fusion fails to occur or if there is misalignment, it can result in persistent pain, limited mobility, and the need for corrective surgeries. Surgeons have to ensure proper alignment and fusion during the procedure, and failure could be deemed as malpractice.

Malpractice vs. Common Error

Bear in mind with all the examples above, the definition of medical malpractice matters. In malpractice cases, the surgeon’s actions have to fall outside the standard of care. This means they need to have performed in a way other surgeons would not.

What would a reasonably skilled and competent doctor do in the same situation? If your surgeon’s behavior breaks with accepted norms and practices within their medical community, you may have a malpractice claim.

Not every patient knows if their situation constitutes malpractice. You may just suspect it. Fortunately, a skilled medical malpractice attorney can help you understand your options.

Medical Malpractice Lawyer Memphis TN - Gavel Stethoscope and Law BookWhat to Do if You Have a Medical Malpractice Case

If you suspect medical malpractice after a spinal surgery, you need an extremely experienced, trusted attorney to represent you. These are complex cases with a lot on the line. So don’t just go anywhere.

For forty years, our award winning Memphis medical malpractice lawyers have represented the people of Memphis in malpractice claims – and won. And we don’t make a penny unless and until you do.

From surgical errors and misdiagnoses to medication mistakes and birth injuries, our team has successfully navigated the most complicated cases. We understand the intricacies of gathering evidence, working with expert witnesses, and negotiating with insurance companies.

We prioritize clear communication, ensuring you’re well-informed at every stage of the process. When you choose Darrell Castle & Associates, you’re choosing a dedicated and skilled team that will vigorously pursue your case and fight for the compensation you need and deserve.

To get started with a free consultation, just contact us online today or call us at 901-327-2100.