Thousands of people around the world live their lives with the assistance of a brain shunt, which drains excess fluid from the brain. Excess cerebral fluid, a condition known as hydrocephalus, can be a congenital condition caused by spina bifida or another spinal malformation, or may be a result of a traumatic brain injury (TBI), tumor, or a disease like meningitis.
Regardless of its cause, hydrocephalus must be treated to prevent brain damage and possibly death. When there is too much fluid, it exerts pressure on the brain which causes a wide variety of physical and mental problems. Usually, hydrocephalus is treated by inserting a shunt system which allows the fluid to drain back into the body rather than being trapped inside the skull.
These shunts are placed inside of the brain, and then attached to catheters. The catheters take excess cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) away from the brain into areas like the abdominal cavity or inside the heart, where the excess CSF can be absorbed in the circulatory system. When functioning normally, the shunt system allows the fluid to drain and prevents brain damage.
While the shunt system has saved thousands of lives, brain surgery is always delicate and the shunt installation itself may cause brain damage. Even if the surgery is completed without causing damage, complications are extremely common.
Brain shunts may fail for multiple reasons. Children with brain shunts are especially susceptible to infections because of their undeveloped immune systems, and some studies estimate that as many as 50% of pediatric brain shunts fail within two years.
Besides infections, brain shunts can be affected by obstructions which are usually caused by a buildup of excess proteins in the CSF at the beginning or end of the shunt system. Similarly, a hemorrhage or blood clot at the location where a shunt begins or ends can block the tubing, which usually requires surgery. Failing to remove an obstruction can result in serious neurological damage as the fluid builds up.
Patients with brain shunts are also vulnerable to over drainage. Just as too much CSF can harm the brain, not enough fluid can compress the brain and cause it to collapse into itself, causing severe damage. Usually, over drainage occurs when the shunt system is not properly designed for the needs of that patient.
When a brain shunt system is not adequately designed for a patient, or when a doctor misses complications from the surgery, that patient is often gravely injured and left irreparably handicapped. Because of the delicate nature of these surgeries, experts in neurology should be monitoring the surgery and the patient afterwards. When a mistake in the surgery or negligence on the part of a doctor or surgeon causes brain damage, that patient often has a claim for malpractice.
In order to make a malpractice claim work against a doctor performing a complicated surgery, you need the assistance of someone who understands both the law and the medicine. As both a medical doctor and a lawyer, attorney Bradley I. Kramer, M.D. and his team of dedicated legal and medical professionals will use their expertise to help you get justice after an injury caused by medical malpractice.
For a free consultation at the Trial Law Offices of Bradley I. Kramer, M.D., Esq., call us today at (310) 289-2600 or use our online contact form to have your case reviewed for free.