CRPS Has Been Linked to Medical Malpractice; Here’s Everything Those Diagnosed Must Know!
CRPS, or Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, is what was formerly known as RSD. CRPS is a pain disorder and considered to be permanent, or as medical professionals often refer to it: “chronic”. There are several ways a person can develop Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. CRPS can be sustained through an obvious physical injury such as a surgical error (in cases of Medical Malpractice, to which CRPS-II has a direct link), or can be sustained in an accident such as a car or motorcycle crash. Regardless of how a person develops the condition, it’s considered to be one of the most excruciating, permanent diseases a person can suffer from.
CRPS is difficult to treat and can be easily misdiagnosed as other neurological diseases such as MS (Multiple Sclerosis). That’s why it’s important, firstly, to fully understand this highly “complex” pain condition and its link to Medical Malpractice. Within this writeup, we’ll answer the most important questions those suffering with the diseases may have.
- What is Complex Regional Pain Syndrome?
- What causes CRPS?
- What are the symptoms of CRPS?
- How is a diagnosis of CRPS made?
- Who’s at-fault in Complex Regional Pain Syndrome cases?
What is Complex Regional Pain Syndrome?
Complex Regional Pain Syndrome is a serious pain condition that in most cases affects a single limb, but can spread to nearby areas of the body if left untreated. This can be a hand, foot, arm, or leg. In extreme cases, more than one limb is affected and the severities may vary from patient to patient. Complex Regional Pain Syndrome usually occurs after a victim sustains an injury such as a motorcycle accident, a motor vehicle accident, or any other injury that can damage the peripheral and central nervous systems. These “other” injuries can be caused by surgical error, which would fall under Medical Malpractice and/or Medical Negligence.
For those diagnosed with CRPS, the classification of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome that affects them will be one of two types: CRPS-I or CRPS-II. Without a confirmed diagnosis of specific nerve injury made by a medical professional (a neurologist is preferable due to their specialization in the nervous system, where CRPS originates) victims suffering from this pain are said to have CRPS-I. This type of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome was formerly known as RSD, or Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome.
When there is a diagnosed injury associated with the victim’s pain, they are said to have CRPS-II. CRPS-II was previously referred to as Causalgia. Research into continuing to classify Complex Regional Pain Syndrome into two types is ongoing and a decision has not yet been made to eliminate these classifications.
What causes CRPS?
What causes Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, specifically? Statistics show that over 90% of those afflicted by this neurological disease have sustained obvious trauma to the affected area (limb, extremity). Medical Malpractice makes up the bulk of these cases, while injuries with a known cause such as car accidents are responsible for the rest.
When the peripheral or central nervous systems are damaged and send incorrect signals, telling the body to feel pain when there is no physical injury present, this diagnosis is known as CRPS-I. It’s less than 10% or so of those who suffer with CRPS that receive the diagnosis of CRPS-I secondary to other extremely rare, extremely painful connective tissue diseases, because there is no physical injury present. Connective tissue diseases such as Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Marfan Syndrome, or other inherited genetic diseases that cause any number of defects in the body’s ability to make and sustain healthy connective tissue, thus causing neurological problems. The latter reasons for CRPS are not common, not caused by any form of Medical Malpractice and are treated by a geneticist due to the nature of their difficulty to diagnose.
Accident lawyers see the painful aftermath of a CRPS diagnosis regularly. Medical Malpractice can maim a patient, leaving them in agony and unable to maintain any sort of Quality of Life. Experienced Personal Injury lawyers have seen the worst of the worst of these cases. Surgical error can be a terrifying experience for a victim. When a patient undergoes surgery on an extremity, trusting their surgeon to repair a broken bone or replace a joint, and the surgeon is negligent or careless, the patient could awaken to what can only be described as a nightmare. CRPS has been dubbed “the suicide disease” for a reason. It’s that painful! Medical Malpractice-related CRPS is more common than anyone could fathom. When a surgeon performs an operation, they must be aware of the nerves present at the surgical site, and the outcome of damaging those nerves if the procedure is not performed with careful attention to detail.
CRPS can take a heavy toll on victims. Lifelong pain can cause those suffering from this condition to become unable to work, let alone get out of bed and care for themselves. When a victim of this condition can no longer work or care for themselves, they’re at-risk for financial devastation and the mental anguish that results. Medical care for complex pain conditions can be extremely limited or too expensive for someone who is out of work to readily afford, even if it means restoring their Quality of Life. This is why Personal Injury lawyers must have experience with seeing these cases all the way to verdict. The maximum amount of compensation is necessary in order to get clients’ back on their feet on the medical side, and restore Quality of Life on the mental side.
What are the symptoms of CRPS?
- Change of ability to move the affected limb
- Abnormal temperature in the affected limb or the surrounding area
- Stiffness in the affected limb
- Changes in skin texture (of the affected limb only)
- Problems in coordination, muscle movement
How is a diagnosis of CRPS made?
The most obvious but misunderstood symptom of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome is severe pain. This may seem vague, but there is no pain that doctors today are treating that feels the same or similar to CRPS pain. Patients describe their CRPS pain as “chronic, unbearable pain”. Patients often describe this unending pain as a “pins and needles” sensation (the kind of pins and needles feeling often felt for a split-second during a blood draw, but constant) or an endless burning sensation (“on fire”) in the affected extremity.
In later stages, left untreated, CRPS can spread to nearby limbs and treatment becomes difficult. This is why it’s important to seek medical treatment as quickly as possible from a trustworthy medical professional as soon as a diagnosis of CRPS is made. Often, a diagnosis takes months or years to acquire, and by then the pain has reached a level that’s unmanageable. A definitive diagnosis of CRPS-I or CRPS-II is not commonly made in a single office visit, as it’s a “diagnosis of exclusion”. The latter means other, more common illnesses that cause pain must first be ruled out. It takes a team of well educated doctors in different specialties (Physical Medicine, Pain Management, Neurology, and Orthopedic) working together to fully understand the scope of the patient’s symptoms, and then connect those symptoms to CRPS rather than Multiple Sclerosis or another neurological or orthopedic disease.
Who’s at-fault in Complex Regional Pain Syndrome cases?
Of course, every surgeon and those assisting them must uphold their duty of care with every operation performed on patients. When a surgeon chooses to rush through a surgical procedure or acts in a manner that’s considered careless (forgetting or simply feeling there’s no need to mark the limb intended for surgery), there are grounds for a patient whom they cause undue injury to file a Medical Malpractice lawsuit. An experienced CRPS lawyer can advise a patient on whether or not their CRPS-related injury is able to be litigated, and compensation obtained.
Occasionally, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome is a recognized and understood complication of certain surgical procedures. If this is the case and the patient has been made aware of the risk and chose to pursue the surgery because it may be medically necessary and/or life-saving, then Medical Malpractice cannot be said to have occurred. If, however, CRPS was not a known risk factor of a surgical procedure and it can be proven that due to the surgeon’s negligence in performing the operation incorrectly, the patient sustained this condition as a result, then there may be grounds for obtaining compensation and a Personal Injury lawyer with prior CRPS experience should contacted at once.