Patients often undergo sinus surgery after antibiotic therapy, allergy treatments, and/or environmental control have failed to resolve a lasting infection of their sinuses. The surgery is meant to clear the patient’s airways. These procedures open up, and unblock, a patient’s sinuses, allowing mucus to drain out, and air to flow through the sinuses unimpeded.
Sinus surgery is among the most common medical procedures performed in the United States. Roughly 600,000 sinus surgery procedures are performed in the U.S. every year. Most of these procedures involve non-invasive, endoscopic sinus surgery; this is the most common form of sinus surgery. The procedure involves the use of a small telescope (an endoscope), alongside other surgical instruments (e.g., microdebriders, curettes, scissors, knives, etc), to visualize and clear the patient’s airways.
POTENTIAL COMPLICATIONS OF ENDOSCOPIC SINUS SURGERY
Sinuses are hollow pockets of air in the skull. They are located behind the nose, cheeks, eyes, and forehead. Because the surgeon uses sharp instruments in proximity to sensitive organs, there is potential for serious, avoidable complications to arise from an endoscopic sinus surgery procedure. According to the American Rhinologic Society, reported complications of endoscopic surgery include, but are not limited to:
- Brain Injury;
- Damage to surrounding organs (e.g., bruising around the eyes);
- Cerebrospinal fluid leaks;
- Impaired sense of taste or smell;
- Post-surgical infections;
As with any surgical procedure, patients should have meaningful conversations with their surgeons prior to surgery so that they may adequately assess the risks, and alternatives, to sinus surgery before deciding to move forward with a surgical procedure. Conversely, surgeons must consider the possibility that every patient is unique, and that surgery is not the cookie-cutter solution to all sinus problems. While surgery may be indicated for some patients, other patients might be at a higher risk for complications depending on their medical history, and their unique anatomy.
The goal for any surgery should be to improve the patient’s overall health. An unfortunate complication of surgery can cause physical, emotional, and psychological damage to a patient, and his/her loved ones.
POWERED ENDOSCOPIC SINUS SURGERY AND EYESIGHT INJURIES
Powered cutting instruments, known as the “microdebrider” or “hummer,” that are used increasingly during endoscopic sinus surgery have gained support from Otolaryngologists because of the ability of these tools to make for a more precise, better visualized, and faster surgery. The tool draws in fluid through suction, and cuts the tissue or bone with its rotating blade. The tool’s speed and degree of suction are controlled by the surgeon.
The potential for permanent injury increases significantly when the surgeon inadvertently lacerates, or injures, ocular tissue in proximity to the sinuses during the procedure. These injuries may be identified after, or during, the surgery through diagnostic studies and/or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). One telltale sign that trauma has occurred during sinus surgery is the presence of an orbital hematoma (a hemorrhage inside the eye compartment that can result in increased eye pressure). The hematoma is itself a surgical complication that demands timely management, and treatment, for the patient to have any chance of retaining the ability to see. An Otolaryngologist, or an on-call Ophthalmologist, may have to perform additional procedures to address a hematoma that arises during sinus surgery.
Although powered cutting instruments are preferred by head and neck surgeons because they provide a more efficient method of surgery, their misuse may cause grave consequences for a patient. In some cases, direct damage to the eye muscle, oculomotor nerve injury, or disruption of orbital connective tissue by a powered cutting instrument may result in permanent double vision to a patient. In other cases, there may be a complete or partial loss of vision resulting from an orbital hematoma causing an optic nerve injury, and/or resulting from direct trauma to the optic nerve itself.
CIVIL LAWSUITS FOR INJURIES ARISING FROM SINUS SURGERY
Patients, and their loved ones, want answers when a patient is injured during a surgical procedure. Unfortunately, hospitals, physicians, and surgical staff may not provide patients with the meaningful answers they are seeking. The patients and their families are left to manage the ensuing physical, financial, emotional, and psychological difficulties resulting from surgery on their own. That is why many injured patients seek the assistance of a medical malpractice attorney.
Talking to an attorney does not require the patient, or the attorney, to file a lawsuit. At McLaughlin & Lauricella, an attorney consultation is free and private. The longer the victim waits, the less of a chance that a victim of malpractice receives the answers, and compensation, that s/he deserves. In Pennsylvania, and in New Jersey, the Statute of Limitations requires victims of medical malpractice to file a lawsuit within two years from the date that they were injured. That means injured patients should begin their investigation as soon as possible. When the hospital, physicians, and medical staff are not giving the patient answers, it may be because they are building their defense. Contact an attorney and get your investigation started today.