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Cervical Surgery Following A Rear-End Collision

S.A. was a very successful data processing analyst with a major corporation. She was married and enjoyed an active and fulfilling lifestyle.

One evening, as S.A. was driving northbound on a major highway, she came to a stop in heavy traffic. The driver behind her did not stop in time and rear-ended S.A.’s vehicle at a substantial speed, which resulted in a forceful impact. Airbags were deployed in both vehicles. The teenage driver was very apologetic to S.A. and claimed that she could not stop. Local police arrived on the scene and cited the teenage driver for Following Too Closely, and her car was towed. She stated that she was not texting while driving. S.A.’s husband picked her up from the scene with her vehicle.

Immediately following the collision, S.A. went to the emergency room at a local hospital for a physical evaluation. She voiced complaints of neck, left clavicle, chest, and wrist pain. The treating physician’s examination revealed a seatbelt marking on her neck as well as a muscle spasm within her cervical spine. S.A. was diagnosed with whiplash and discharged home.

Four days later, S.A. was experiencing constant mid-cervical neck pain, so she sought treatment at an urgent care center near her home. A physician’s assistant performed a physical evaluation that revealed pain to the touch (palpation) right below her cervical spine, left side of her chest, and first rib. He also took note of decreased range of motion in her neck. She underwent x-rays of her cervical spine and chest, and the radiologist discovered disc space narrowing in her cervical spine as well as prominent anterior bridging osteophyte at spinal vertebrae C4-C5.

Nine days following her examination at the urgent care center, S.A. presented at an orthopedist. She was still experiencing immense neck pain as well as numbness in both of her hands. She described the neck pain as constant, sharp, and burning with associated stiffness that radiated into her upper chest and back muscles. The treating physician recommended that S.A. begin physical therapy for a cervical stabilization program after noting that she was suffering from anterior osteophyte formation and spondylosis. Further discharge instructions specified for S.A. to return for an MRI if her symptoms did not improve.

Three weeks following the wreck, S.A. began physical therapy. She complained of weakness and numbness in her hands that had begun to affect her basic daily activities as well as her leisurely activities. Over the course of her ten physical therapy sessions, which included manual therapy, cervical traction, therapeutic exercise, and electrical stimulation, she experienced increased pain at the base of her neck and in her shoulder blades. After these therapy appointments, S.A.’s physical therapy was paused for pending MRI results to be completed.

S.A.’s symptoms did not improve, so she went back to the orthopedist doctor to have an MRI performed on her cervical spine about seven weeks following the wreck. The results of the MRI revealed a C5-C6 left paramedian focal central disc bulge-osteophyte complex that was causing ventral flattening of the cervical spinal cord and central canal narrowing.

Five days after receiving the results of her MRI, S.A. returned to the orthopedist with complaints of neck pain that radiated to her arms, especially her left arm. After a physical examination that revealed tenderness to the cervical paraspinals upon palpation, the orthopedist recommended that S.A. undergo epidural steroid injections from her left to midline C7-T1 vertebrae and to follow up after the injection.

Two weeks later, S.A. received a left C7-T1 cervical translaminar epidural steroid injection, and two weeks after the injection procedure, she returned as instructed to the orthopedist. Unfortunately, S.A. reported no improvement in her neck pain, and she stated that the radiculopathy in her arms was still present. A physician’s assistant examined her and diagnosed her further with neck pain with upper extremity radiculopathy, cervical spondylosis, and a disc herniation at C4-C5 and C5-C6 cervical vertebrae.

About a month later, S.A. returned to the local hospital surgery center for a second epidural steroid injection, and two weeks post-injection treatment, she followed up with the orthopedist’s physician’s assistant. She expressed that following her second epidural steroid injection, her symptoms had worsened. The PA recommended that she undergo a third injection and resume physical therapy to relieve her pain symptoms.

About two weeks later, S.A. resumed physical therapy with chief complaints of left shoulder and left forearm pain with associated hand tingling. She was also having trouble sleeping and performing activities of daily living. Her treatment included therapeutic exercise and a home exercise program. Three days following the reintroduction of physical therapy, S.A. underwent her third epidural steroid injection. Following this third injection treatment, she gained no relief from her pain symptoms, and she was instructed to undergo a NCV-EMG if she experienced no benefit from the injection treatment.

S.A. returned to the orthopedist two weeks later, where an x-ray of her cervical spine revealed straightening of the natural curve of her cervical spine and degeneration of C3-C6 vertebrae. She was instructed to undergo an EMG and return to discuss surgical options. The EMG exposed bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome that was affecting sensory components. S.A. returned to the orthopedist office to discuss her EMG results with a surgeon. The surgeon offered S.A. two options-living with her significant discomfort or undergoing surgical intervention.

After seeking a second confirming opinion from another surgeon regarding her options, S.A. decided to undergo artificial disc replacement surgery at her C5-C6 vertebrae. Following surgery, after the surgical hardware was determined to be in a good, healing position, S.A. returned to her spinal surgeon for further follow-up, and expressed that she was experiencing increased neck pain and the return of numbness and tingling in two fingers of her left hand. She also had complaints of tightness across her shoulders. The spinal surgeon recommended that she undergo a standing cervical spine x-ray and eight physical therapy visits.

After eight successful physical therapy visits and a positive standing cervical spine x-ray for satisfactory appearance of the artificial disc, S.A. returned to the spinal surgeon with remarks of her improved condition from physical therapy and minimal pain. She was very pleased with her overall recovery, but the scar incurred on her throat from surgery was a painful reminder of the collision, and she felt depressed and self-conscious by its appearance.

S.A. consulted with a plastic surgeon, who recommended laser surgery on her scar to seal the blood vessels that were giving the scar its prominent color. The plastic surgeon also recommended that she seek psychological therapy to help ease S.A.’s depression and post-traumatic stress symptoms.

Our team was there with S.A. through every step of her case and treatment, and we were privileged to be a part of her journey as she overcame incredible obstacles.

Kaufman Law filed suit on S.A.’s case for a total settlement amount of $270,000. She has been able to pay all of her medical expenses as well as plan for future medical costs. S.A. still continues to physically improve and model how great odds can be conquered.