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Can improper positioning during surgery cause nerve damage resulting in foot drop?

Can improper positioning during surgery cause nerve damage resulting in foot drop?

A: Yes. Proper positioning of the patient during surgery can be critically important because significant permanent injury can result from improper positioning including foot drop.

For example, certain excision surgeries that lasted more than 9 hours with the patient in an extreme position known as a Trendelenburg position resulted in right peroneal nerve injury that caused the patient to suffer from foot drop thereafter.

The Trendelenburg position is when the patient is placed on her back and her pelvis and legs are raised above her chest and head.

Surgeons, anesthesiologists and nurses all share responsibility for ensuring surgical patients are placed in safe positions. When patients are under general anesthesia, they cannot feel the discomfort that dangerous positions cause nor can they report that discomfort to medical providers. If a patient is placed in a dangerous position for surgery, significant injury can occur especially the longer the surgery lasts.

Each member of the surgical team usually is responsible for placing different body parts in the correct position with the surgeon generally taking responsibility for the patient’s legs. Misplacement of body parts can negligently cause injury as can misapplied restraints such as a leg restraint strap.

That said, some pre-existing conditions pre-dispose patients to post-surgical nerve problems. A detailed review of the medical record must be done to determine if the pre-existing condition caused the injury or medical negligence.


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