Debate Continues About Cause of Joint Problems

Chicago Tribune Health reported yesterday on rare but devastating joint condition known as chondrolysis. The condition involves the destruction of joint cartilage, leaving bones exposed to grind against one another. Our Illinois medical malpractice attorneys have become familiar with the condition recently, as the prevalence of the chrondrolysis seems to have increased significantly over the past few years. What makes the condition particularly unique is that is usually arises only after surgery and affects young patients who are otherwise healthy. Many Illinois chondrolysis victims have ultimately filed Illinois medical malpractice lawsuits against their medical care providers, because many suspect that the condition is caused by a misuse of a pain pump. Specifically, evidence suggests that errors using the pain pump to infuse anesthesia into the joint following surgery to repair the damage cause the condition.

For example, one local woman filed suit after she developed the chrondrolysis several years ago. She explains how the condition “took over her life.” The problem conditioned to deteriorate after she had surgery to repair torn shoulder cartilage, and she ultimately needed to have a partial joint replacement. The surgery in question involved use of anchors, a hot probe, and a pain pump. Use of all of these has been associated with chondrolysis, leading one doctor to consider the problem a “growing orthopedic catastrophe.”

However, as with many new high-profile medical problems, some in the medical community are fighting all allegations that their conduct may have been involved in the development of the condition. Chicago medical malpractice lawyers involved in these situations have shown how that total cartilage destruction found in these cases was virtually unheard of until the last ten years, when the use of pain pumps in arthroscopic surgery became common. Manufacturers of the pumps have asked to have use of the pumps approved inside of a joint, but that request has been denied by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, according to many injury lawyers involved, manufacturers of these devices routinely market the pumps for the unapproved joint use. Blog readers are likely aware of similar cases of illegal medical device marketing for uses which are not approved by the FDA.

A series of studies over the past few years have provided further support for the position that the pumps cause chondrolysis. This year alone a University of Washington study revealed that a large number of patients who had arthroscopic shoulder surgery developed the condition. Of those who developed it, all had received pain pump infusions. None of the patients who did not have the pain pump infusions developed the problem. In another study, a patient had the surgery performed on both shoulders, however she developed the condition only in the shoulder that was treated with a pain pump.

Some doctors are claiming, however, that the use of the pain pump is only one of a variety of factors that may contribute to the chrondrolysis. Other possible factors may include protruding metallic suture anchors, radio frequency heat treatment, surgical trauma, and dyes. Other doctors have questioned the researchers who suggest there are multiple causes. Concerns have been raised that the doctors who are minimizing the connection between the condition and pain pump are employed by large medical device companies.

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