Neck Injury Complaint - Queensland Medical Rights Solicitors QLD

LAWYER HELPLINE: 07 3613 7325

If you think that you have received inadequate or negligent medical treatment for neck injury, our solicitors will be able to assist you in making a complaint to the Office of the Health Ombudsman (OHO) in Queensland. Our QLD based solicitors deal with health care complaints on a ‘pro bono’ basis and will not make any charge to you for advice on how to make a complaint to the Office of the Health Ombudsman. A complaint to the Office of the Health Ombudsman in QLD is not a medical negligence compensation claim and will not result in the payment of compensation but may assist you in further understanding what went wrong and why you were treated in the way that has caused you concern. There are a number of possible outcomes and the Queensland Office of the Health Ombudsman may be able to obtain a more full explanation of the circumstances of any alleged negligence or may give you more details about the treatment that you have received.

Serious Neck Injury

A serious neck injury occurs when an individual is involved in a motor vehicle accident whereby the neck is flexed and/or extended out of its normal range or when a person is involved in a serious fall from a great height, involved in a motorcycle accident or struck in the face or back of the head in an act of violence.

In general, the neck is protected in several areas. It is protected by the spine in the back of the neck; it is protected by the head at the top of the neck; it is protected by the chest from below. The most vulnerable parts of the neck are the larynx and trachea in the front and in the lateral portion of the neck.

In a serious injury to the neck, the laryngeal or tracheal injury symptoms can be:

  • Hemoptysis—spitting up blood
  • Changes in the voice
  • Stridor—alterations in the breathing pattern
  • A sucking sound with hissing, frothing or bubbling through the neck wound
  • Drooling
  • Shortness of breath
  • Hoarseness
  • Pain to touch or with swallowing or coughing
  • Distortion of the way the neck normally looks
  • Crepitus—a cracking sound when touching the neck from air in the tissues
  • Pain when the tongue is moved

The esophagus and pharynx can be injured. Signs of this type of injury include:

  • Bloody saliva
  • Dysphagia—difficulty eating or swallowing
  • Bloody drainage from the nasogastric tube
  • Having a sucking neck wound
  • Neck resistance when there is passive motion applied
  • Tenderness and pain in the neck
  • Crepitus—crackling in the neck to palpation from air in the tissues
  • Bleeding from the mouth or from the nasogastric tube

In a serious neck injury, there can be disruption of the carotid artery. This can lead to the following signs and symptoms:

  • Hemiparesis or paralysis of the side of the body opposite to the side of the injury
  • Decreased level of consciousness
  • Hematoma of the neck
  • Hemorrhaging
  • Dyspnea because there is pressure on the trachea
  • A thrill when palpating the carotid artery
  • A bruit when listening to the carotid artery
  • Absence of the carotid pulse or pulses if bilateral

If the jugular vein is injured, there can be a neck hematoma, low blood pressure and external hemorrhaging.

If there is a spinal cord or brachial plexus injury to the neck, there are the following symptoms:

  • Quadriplegia
  • Pathological reflexes
  • Lessened upper extremity function
  • Brown Sequard syndrome—when the cord is cut halfway only
  • Priapism
  • Loss of rectal tone and fecal incontinence
  • Urinary retention and need for a urinary catheter
  • Horner syndrome—paralysis of a side of the face and loss of eyelid function
  • Hypoxia and poor ventilation
  • Neurogenic shock

If a cranial nerve is involved in a neck injury, you can see the following symptoms:

  • Drooping of the corner of the mouth due to cranial nerve VII injury
  • Altered gag reflex from damage to cranial nerve IX
  • Hoarseness of the voice from damage to cranial nerve X
  • Inability to shrug the shoulder or rotate the chin to the opposite shoulder due to damage to cranial nerve XI
  • Deviation of the tongue when the tongue is protruded from damage to cranial nerve XII

As you can see, the neck contains a lot of structures, any one of which can cause severe damage to the body. In order to determine what structures are damaged, a bunch of possible tests can be done. You can have a CT scan of the neck with contrast, a color flow Doppler ultrasound to check for blood flow in the neck, an MRI of the neck, which can show small structures and soft tissue, or interventional angiography to check for leakage of a blood vessel. Other tests that may help include a bronchoscopy, a pharygoscopy, larygoscopy, and esophagoscopy that can be useful in assessing the damage to the throat and esophagus.

If there is neck trauma, the EMTs need to keep the neck completely still so as to avoid further damage to the spinal cord. In the emergency room, the focus is on airway, circulation and breathing (the ABCs) of emergency care and then attention is directed to the neurological findings. The steps taken in the emergency room include the following:

  • Perform intubation with care not to move the neck if the patient is having difficulty breathing and is in respiratory distress.
  • Provide ventilator support to correct breathing difficulties
  • Stop bleeding in the neck with direct pressure to the neck. Balloon tamponade may be necessary if direct pressure does not control the bleeding.

If the neck is found to be fractured, the treatment depends on the exact type of the fractures, the extent of the fracture in the bone and on whether or not the fracture is dislocated in the spine. Possible treatments include:

  • Surgery to fuse the unstable parts of the cervical bones, using screws, rods and plates.
  • Wearing a rigid neck collar or neck brace
  • Immobilizing the spine over the long term with devices like halo traction devices, which are worn outside the head like a halo to keep the spine immobilized until the bones heal.

If the spine is okay but there is a severe sprain to the neck, the treatment can extend to massage therapy to the neck, muscle relaxants and pain medications to keep the patient comfortable, chiropractic therapy, physical therapy, and the use of a soft cervical collar for a brief period of time.

Complications of a neck injury include things that go beyond just the neck injury. These can include suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome, having stiffness, weakness, or pain at the level of the neck, arm, or shoulder, paralysis of the upper and/or lower extremities, decreased range of motion of the neck on a permanent basis, shock and possible death.

HELPLINE: 07 3613 7325