How Can Hospital Infections Cause Life-Threatening Conditions?

The human spine is capable of supporting the full weight of the body and provides extensive mobility. However, it is not indestructible. One dangerous type of infection we see is a spinal epidural abscess (SEA), which can result in back pain, paralysis, and death.

If you or someone you love developed a spinal epidural abscess after a hospital stay, then you should not have to shoulder the consequences alone. Instead, speak to the New York spinal epidural abscess attorneys at Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro, Moses & Halperin, LLP. With our more than 50 years of experience, we can provide the legal representation you need during a difficult part of your life. Call us at (212) 986-7353 to get a free case evaluation and learn how we can fight for you.

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What Are Spinal Epidural Abscesses?

SEAs are the result of a buildup of bacteria in the spinal column, which can occur in a variety of scenarios – but usually starts with some form of back surgery. When a patient’s spine develops an infection, the body will naturally try to fight the infection with white blood cells. This will lead to a buildup of pus in the spinal column, which forms an abscess. The higher up the abscess is, the more likely it will cause paralysis and brain damage to the patient.

The pressure of an SEA can cause damage to the spinal column, resulting in:

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How Should Doctors Treat SEA?

There are several factors that make a patient more likely to develop an SEA. In general, infections are more common among patients older than 60 years who have diabetes, staph infections, or recent brain trauma. It is also possible for patients to develop hospital-based infections following spinal cord surgery or other invasive treatment. Hospital staff, from OR techs to surgeons, must properly clean patients’ surgical and/or injection sites to prevent bacteria from entering the wound and only use clean equipment.

SEAs are considered rare, and doctors may miss the obvious symptoms if they are not experienced with the condition. The classic triad of fever, back pain, and neurological deficits is not completely reliable when diagnosing SEAs, which is why doctors should pay close attention to the patient’s condition.

Symptoms of a spinal epidural abscess include:

  • Back pain
  • Fevers
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty walking
  • Poor coordination
  • Muscle weakness
  • Difficulty controlling bladder or bowels
  • Paralysis

With these symptoms, doctors should thoroughly review the patient’s history and schedule exams to check for an SEA. This may require a physical exam to check the spine for tenderness or paralysis, an MRI to identify the abscess, blood cultures from the abscess, and blood tests to check for signs of an infection. Doctors should carefully review all test results to identify an SEA and rule out other possibilities. An SEA can be treated with antibiotics to stop the infection, drainage to reduce the pressure of the abscess, and surgery to remove it.

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SEAs and Malpractice

Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor does not provide the standard of care when treating a patient. With SEAs, this can include ignoring obvious symptoms, not scheduling tests in a timely manner, misreading test results, delaying in providing proper treatment, or having the poor sanitary conditions that allowed the patient to develop the abscess in the first place.

To determine if you were a victim of malpractice, you will need to review your medical records with another medical professional who can determine if your doctor broke the standard of care, as well as a skilled New York medical malpractice attorney who can advocate for your best interests.

Whether you suffered an SEA due to a surgical infection, a doctor who failed to properly diagnose your condition, or you received delayed treatment for an SEA, you deserve full compensation for the trauma you have experienced. SEAs are life-threatening conditions, and even patients who survive these ordeals can develop chronic back pain, paralysis, and nerve damage. While SEAs are uncommon, doctors should take every case seriously and provide the best care possible.

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Work With a Dedicated New York Medical Malpractice Team

For more than 50 years, our New York medical malpractice lawyers at Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro, Moses & Halperin, LLP, have fought for injured patients throughout New York. We have seen firsthand how medical negligence can destroy patients’ lives. We are dedicated to getting our clients the compensation they need to heal comfortably and move forward.

The costs of an SEA cannot be dismissed. Patients should not be strapped with thousands of dollars in medical bills and debilitating conditions because of a medical professional’s negligence. You deserve full compensation for all that you have suffered, and the team at Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro, Moses & Halperin, LLP, has the experience and resources to fight for you. To get a free case evaluation today, call us (212) 986-7353.

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Our Medical Malpractice Case Results

$16 Million - Two Medical Malpractice Cases Involving Brain Damage

Phil Russotti recently obtained settlements for two brain damaged individuals and their families totaling guaranteed payouts in excess of $16,000,000.

Philip Russotti

$12.085 Million - Failure to Timely Deliver an Infant

This is a case involving the failure to timely deliver an infant to a first-time mother and resulting in severe brain damage to the child who is now 6 years old.


$10.7 Million - Medical Malpractice Verdict In Queens County, NY

The female plaintiff fell down a flight of stairs at work and suffered a brain herniation that compressed the brain stem, which she contended was due to delayed treatment at the hospital emergency room.


$10.2 Million - Infant Brain Damage Due to Medical Malpractice in New York

New York lawyer, Philip Russotti, won a $10,200,000 settlement for an infant who has catastrophic neurologic injuries caused by brain damage that resulted from herpes that went undiagnosed in 2003.

Philip Russotti

$8.5 Million - Verdict For NY Stroke Victim

A 62 year-old man suffered a stroke following a delay in surgery and discontinuance of a medication (Heparin) which prevents blood clotting.


$6.6 Million - Improperly Performed Spinal Surgeries

At an extensive settlement mediation prior to jury selection, Phil Russotti settled a medical malpractice action on behalf of a old man against his neurosurgeon for improperly performing two spinal fusion surgeries.

Philip Russotti

$6.2 Million - Highest Personal Injury Verdict in Putnam County History

The plaintiff contended that an orthopedic surgeon failed to take a biopsy before performing surgery to remove a suspected Baker's cyst despite signs on MRI that the growth might be malignant.


$6.15 Million - Negligent Administration of Excessive Steroids For Lupus

Philip Russotti obtained a verdict in a case venued and tried in Hawaii, for approximately six weeks. It was a complex medical malpractice case involving an infant plaintiff who sustained numerous permanent injuries.

Philip Russotti

$6.15 Million - Largest Verdict in Hawaii Personal Injury History

Phil Russotti recently obtained the largest jury verdict in Hawaii in a personal injury suit, a $6.15 million dollar verdict for a 14 year old girl who suffered steroid myopathy.

Philip Russotti

$6.1 Million - Union Plumber in Trip-and-Fall, Medical Malpractice Action

Attorneys with Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro, Moses & Halperin, LLP, obtained a settlement in the amount of $6,100,000 for a 57-year-old union plumber who tripped and fell at a construction site.

Kenneth Halperin, Jason Rubin

$6 Million - Newborn Who Sustained Brain and Kidney Injuries

The firm settled a case involving a newborn who sustained serious injuries during a double exchange transfusion.


$4.5 Million - New York Medical Malpractice Case

Phil Russotti recently settled a case against five doctors after eight weeks of trial for $4.5 million dollars. The case concerned their failure to timely diagnose appendicitis and operate on a 17 year old boy.

Philip Russotti

$4.25 Million - Client Developed Permanent Steroid Myopathy

Phil Russotti obtained the second largest medical malpractice jury verdict in the State of Hawaii's history on behalf of a young woman who developed steroid myopathy after administration of excessive amounts of steroids.

Philip Russotti

$3.75 Million - Recovery For Disabled Siamese Twin in New York

The firm recently obtained an extraordinary settlement in an extremely difficult medical malpractice case.


$3.5 Million - Medical Malpractice/Wrongful Death for Failure to Diagnose

Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro, Moses & Halperin, LLP attorney Jason Rubin obtained a $3.5 million settlement in a case involving the failure to diagnose acute coronary syndrome in a 34-year-old married father of two children.

Jason Rubin

$3 Million - NY Medical Malpractice/Wrongful Death

Just prior to jury selection, Jason Rubin reached a $3 million settlement in a case arising out of the death of a 35 year old, unmarried mother of four.

Jason Rubin

$3 Million - Patient Develops Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis Due to Medication

Jason Rubin successfully represented a young man who experienced a severe case of toxic epidermal necrolysis due to medication.

Jason Rubin

$3 Million - Woman Died of Ovarian Cancer

Phil Russotti and Jason Rubin obtained a $3 million settlement in a medical malpractice/wrongful death case, involving a 59 year old woman who died of ovarian cancer.

Philip Russotti, Jason Rubin

$2.95 Million - Wrongful Death Claim in New York

After a month-long trial and during jury deliberations, Jason Rubin settled a medical malpractice/wrongful death case for $2.95 million.

Jason Rubin

$2.75 Million - Fatal Medical Malpractice

Prior to trial, Jason Rubin obtained a $2.75 million settlement in a medical malpractice case involving injuries sustained by an infant at birth, which lead to his death six years later.

Jason Rubin

Click here to see more NY Medical Malpractice Verdicts & Settlements