What Kinds of Brain Injuries Are Caused by Medical Malpractice?

Brain Damage Medical MalpracticeMedical malpractice is a complex topic because it can refer to many different scenarios. However, each of those scenarios has at least one thing in common; a mistake was made that could have been prevented with a more experienced professional or closer attention to detail. In other words, malpractice occurs when medical professionals are negligent and/or fail to meet a certain standard of care.

In the worst cases, malpractice can result in the death of a patient, but malpractice resulting in a brain injury is a close second in terms of severity. We usually discuss brain injuries in the context of Traumatic Brain Injuries (or TBIs), but medical malpractice brain injuries are most often caused by a condition called cerebral hypoxia.

The Cleveland Clinic tells us that “cerebral hypoxia occurs when your brain doesn’t get enough oxygen. A related condition, anoxia, occurs when no oxygen reaches the brain. Healthcare providers often use the terms together: a hypoxic-anoxic brain injury.” Hypoxic applies when brain tissue doesn’t receive enough oxygen, whereas anoxic means that no oxygen is being supplied to the tissue at all.

Why are brain injuries different from other catastrophic injuries?

The human brain consumes an incredible amount of energy relevant to the rest of the organs; it even behaves differently from the rest of our organ groups. Your body sends oxygen-rich blood on-demand to most of your muscle groups when they need more oxygen for performance. The increase in blood flow allows more work to be done (this is why you look “pumped” after a hard workout). The brain, however, receives the same volume of blood (and therefore oxygen and energy) twenty-four hours a day.

The brain can’t store energy, and so relies on the consistency of blood flow to keep your little gray cells alive and healthy and figuring out crossword puzzles. Any interruption can result in cell death. Prolonged interruption (i.e., hypoxia or anoxia) can quickly result in significant impairment. What’s worse is that a surprising number of medical conditions can lead to cerebral hypoxia without proper treatment. These include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Choking or Suffocation
  • Lung Injury
  • Heart attack
  • Arrhythmia
  • Stroke
  • Seizure
  • Significant Blood Loss/Hemorrhage
  • Anesthesia Errors
  • Traumatic Brain Injury

We didn’t include surgical complications on the above list because it’s a blanket term that can encompass any and all of the above conditions. Surgical complications involving intubation can result in choking, suffocation, or lung injuries. Mistreatment or misdiagnosis of a heart attack, arrhythmia, stroke or seizure can result in decrease blood flow to the brain, as can surgical intervention for any of these conditions. Any surgery has the potential for significant blood loss.

Additionally, you might be surprised to learn that TBIs can result in hypoxic-anoxic brain injuries when not treated properly. This is mostly because failure to relieve the swelling that results from a TBI can actually cut off blood flow to the brain, compounding an already serious injury with negligent care.Why medical malpractice-related brain injuries are important

Hypoxic-anoxic brain injuries can happen extremely quickly; it’s part of the reason that the acronym FAST is used to help identify if someone is having a stroke. It’s partly a good mnemonic device and mostly a reminder that the only way to prevent permanent brain damage is to act fast – just 10 minutes without oxygen can cause permanent brain death.

Brain injuries, regardless of how they are acquired, have significant consequences that can seriously alter a victims’ quality of life. Recovering from cerebral hypoxia is similar in many ways to recovering from a TBI. Some or all of the brain injury may be permanent and can require a lifetime of continuing medical care at no small cost. According to one study:

“An estimate of lifetime (direct and indirect) costs of medical care and lost wages/productivity of patients with TBI is estimated to be $76.5 billion. The financial burden is further enhanced when victims become vulnerable to neurological diseases such as seizures, epilepsy, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease. In addition to the neurological complications of TBI, psychological, cognitive, behavioral, and social impairments result in a significant problem… the true cost and impact of TBI may be much higher than the present estimated cost.”

The costs are incredible and the burden to the families of victims incalculable, but so far, we’ve only covered brain injuries resulting from medical malpractice for conditions that generally apply to adults. Medical malpractice can also be the root cause of brain injuries when those injuries are sustained by a child during birth.

While these are generally referred to as birth injuries, they can also be classified as medical malpractice when: a healthcare professional fails to diagnose any condition in mom that could affect a healthy birth; medication errors occur during birth that cause overdose, allergic reactions, or drug interactions; fails to properly monitor the fetus; improperly uses delivery instruments or fails to identify blocked airways or administer oxygen to the newborn.

At the Rocky McElhaney Law Firm, we do more than win complex lawsuits – we offer our clients hope for a better future, even after a life-altering injury. We work hard every day to give our clients the security and compensation they need to adjust to a new life with new rules. When you are injured, you can put your trust in the fighters of Rocky McElhaney Law Firm.

Dealing with the brain injury of a loved one at the hands of a doctor can be devastating. The lawyers at The Rocky McElhaney Law Firm fight for medical malpractice victims and their families in Tennessee. To schedule a consultation with a compassionate medical malpractice attorney, please call  615-208-6065 or  contact the firm. We proudly represent clients throughout Tennessee, and maintain offices in Nashville, Hendersonville and Clarksville.