doctor looking at xray of spinal cordRadiation is often recommended to treat tumors on the spine. When radiation treatment is successful, it can treat cancerous tumors, prevent tumors from coming back, shrink tumors to make spinal surgery less risky, and eliminate the need for some spinal surgeries.

However, radiation to the spine also has significant risks that can leave you seriously injured.

Risks of Radiation to the Spine

Common side effects of spinal radiation include:

  • Skin irritation
  • Fatigue
  • Sore throat
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea

Most of these side effects begin one to two weeks after radiation treatment starts and end two to four weeks after radiation treatment ends.

When there is a mistake in the strength or location of radiation treatment, however, the effects may be more serious. Months or even years after spinal cord radiation treatment, a condition known as radiation myelopathy may develop. Radiation myelopathy occurs if radiation treatment causes spinal cord compression.

While radiation myelopathy can happen even without medical malpractice, it may be more likely to occur if a mistake is made with your radiation treatment. Short-term radiation myelopathy complications include temporary numbness. Sometimes, however, permanent injuries like paralysis occur. Symptoms of myelopathy include:

  • Pain in the neck, arm, leg, or back
  • Numbness, weakness, or tingling
  • Fine motor skill difficulties
  • Abnormal reflexes
  • Trouble walking
  • Loss of urinary or bowel control
  • Balance and coordination problems

Once you tell your doctor about these symptoms, your doctor may perform diagnostic tests, such as MRIs and X-rays, to determine if you have myelopathy.

Doctors may be unable to reverse the damage done by a radiation mistake. Treatment may be limited to slowing down the progression of your condition, treating your symptoms, and helping you secure adaptive equipment to improve your quality of life. Specific treatments may include physical therapy, surgeries, bracing, and medications.

When to Pursue a Radiation Injury Lawsuit

If you suffered a serious or permanent injury because a mistake was made during your radiation treatment, you might be able to recover legal damages.

As the patient, it can be challenging to know what, if anything, went wrong, but our experienced radiation injury lawyers and staff nurse know what questions to ask and what documents to review to find out what really happened to you. We will find out whether:

  • Radiation was a reasonable medical option for you given the size and location of your tumor and other factors
  • You were told of possible risks so that you could provide informed consent to radiation treatment
  • Radiation was provided to the exact location and in the right dose every time you received it
  • Your medical providers considered other reasonable cancer treatments
  • Radiation equipment was working correctly and was properly calibrated
  • Any other factors led to too much radiation or radiation in the wrong location of your body

Then, we will advise you of your legal rights. If someone else’s negligence caused a radiation error that resulted in myelopathy, we will fight for your fair recovery of damages. Your recovery could include, but may not be limited to, past and future:

  • Healthcare costs. All of your medical expenses, including hospital stays, doctor visits, surgeries, medications, physical therapy appointments, and medical devices, should be part of your recovery.
  • Lost income. Any wages, benefits, or income from self-employment that you cannot earn due to your injuries should be part of your compensation.
  • Compensation for physical pain and emotional suffering. Spinal cord injuries change your life. You deserve to be compensated for your physical and psychological suffering.
  • Any other expenses. Any out-of-pocket costs or other expenses you incur because of your injury should be part of your recovery.

Kentucky has strict deadlines for filing lawsuits. In most cases, you have just one year to file a lawsuit. Your time starts when you knew, or should have known, that you were hurt by a radiation mistake.

To learn more about your rights, please call us or fill out our contact form to have us contact you to schedule a free, no-obligation legal consultation.

Mark K. Gray
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Louisville attorney serving the seriously injured in Kentucky

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