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What You Should Know About Laryngeal Injuries

Written by Berkowitz

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Laryngeal nerve injuries can result from a variety of different causes. This includes various types of medical mistakes. While laryngeal nerve injuries due to medical malpractice among adults are relatively uncommon, they do occur. The financial and non-financial costs can be substantial for patients and their families.

Additionally, medical errors during pregnancy, labor, and delivery can cause injuries to babies’ laryngeal nerves. These nerves serve essential functions outside of the womb, and damage to the laryngeal nerves can potentially have significant, permanent, and even life-threatening effects. If your baby has been diagnosed with a laryngeal nerve injury, your family may have a claim for medical malpractice, and you should consult with an attorney promptly.

What are the Laryngeal Nerves, and What Do They Do?

The laryngeal nerves assist with the functioning of the larynx (or voice box). They run through the neck on the left and right sides. There are two types of laryngeal nerves—superior laryngeal nerves and recurrent laryngeal nerves—each of which plays a different role in our ability to speak and perform certain other functions. The superior laryngeal nerves “innervate parts of the throat and larynx, including the cricothyroid muscles.” While the recurrent laryngeal nerves “suppl[y] nerve function to [most] of the muscles that are intrinsic to (contained fully within) the larynx.”

How Do Laryngeal Nerve Injuries Occur?

Like the other nerves and soft tissue in the neck, the laryngeal nerves are prone to various causes. Stretching, twisting, compression, trauma, and neurological conditions can all cause damage to the superior and recurrent laryngeal nerves. With this in mind, some of the most common causes of laryngeal nerve injuries include:

  • Medical mistakes during thyroid, lung, spine, heart, and other surgeries
  • Improper intubation with an endotracheal tube during anesthesia, sedation, or treatment
  • Untreated viral infections
  • Untreated cancers in the neck and upper chest
  • Untreated neurological conditions
  • Failure to diagnose risk factors during pregnancy, labor, and delivery
  • Birth trauma

Among adults, hoarseness, difficulty speaking or swallowing, and difficulty breathing are typically the first signs of a laryngeal nerve injury. A weak cry and signs of oxygen deprivation are signs of laryngeal nerve injuries for newborns—and in many cases, emergency medical treatment will be necessary.

How Do You Prove that a Laryngeal Injury is the Result of Medical Malpractice?

Due to the significant – and potentially permanent – effects of laryngeal nerve injuries, these injuries’ costs can be substantial. As a result, patients and their families will need to pursue medical malpractice claims in many cases. There are several ways to prove that a laryngeal nerve injury is the result of medical malpractice, including:

  • Bronchoscopy – This is a test performed with a device (a bronchoscope) that allows a doctor to see inside a patient’s airway.
  • CT Scan – A computed tomography (CT) scan is a three-dimensional x-ray that allows doctors to view the damage to the structures (including nerves) inside the body.
  • Laryngoscopy is a visual test that can either be conducted using a small mirror or a viewing tube called a laryngoscope.
  • MRI – Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans allow doctors to examine nerves in total (not just damage, as in a CT scan).
  • X-ray – Like CT scans, x-rays can be used to observe nerve damage consistent with laryngeal injuries.

By reviewing the results of these tests, doctors who specialize in diagnosing and treating laryngeal nerve injuries will often be able to determine the cause of an adult or child patient’s injury. These specialists can also review patients’ medical records and link their injuries to specific procedures and failed diagnoses. At Berkowitz Hanna, a significant portion of our practice is devoted to handling medical malpractice cases in Connecticut. We work with many local specialists who are experts in determining the causes of patients’ injuries.

What are the Treatment Options for Laryngeal Injuries, and What is the Prognosis?

The treatment options for laryngeal nerve injuries vary depending on the patient’s age, the severity of the damage, and other factors. Generally speaking, the primary forms of treatment for these injuries include (i) arytenoid adduction, (ii) collagen (or other) injections, and (iii) thyroplasty procedures. Voice therapy can also prove effective in some cases, either independently or in conjunction with one of the treatment modalities listed.

The prognosis for a laryngeal nerve injury is also heavily dependent upon the specific circumstances presented. In some cases, a full recovery is possible. In others, however, the damage to the laryngeal nerves or the larynx may be permanent. This can cause endless speech, swallowing, and breathing difficulties, and newborns and adults who experience oxygen deprivation can face permanent and potentially fatal complications from this as well.

What Compensation is Available to Patients and Families in Laryngeal Nerve Injury Cases?

Because laryngeal nerve injuries can result from medical negligence, patients and families struggling to cope with the effects of these injuries should consult with medical malpractice lawyers about their legal rights. In medical malpractice and birth injury cases, patients and families can recover compensation for losses, including:

  • Medical bills, prescription costs, and other treatment-related expenses
  • Lost earnings and earning capacity
  • Pain, suffering, and emotional trauma
  • Loss of society, support, companionship, and consortium
  • Loss of enjoyment of life

It will be essential for you to speak with a lawyer right away to prove your right to compensation and promptly file your claim. At Berkowitz Hanna, our Connecticut medical malpractice lawyers are available seven days a week, and we can arrange for you to speak with one of our lawyers in confidence as soon as possible.

Speak with a Connecticut Medical Malpractice Lawyer for Free

If you would like more information about seeking financial compensation for a laryngeal nerve injury caused by medical malpractice, please contact us to arrange a free, no-obligation consultation. To speak with a Connecticut medical malpractice lawyer in confidence, call us or tell us how we can help online now.