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Do you have Ossification of the Posterior Longitudinal Ligament?

May 10, 2022  ·  By HM&M

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Do You Have Ossification of the Posterior Longitudinal Ligament?

Did you know that Ossification of the Posterior Longitudinal Ligament (OPLL) occurs in about 1.5 percent of the U.S. population?  

This uncommon condition can often be misdiagnosed, leading to further complications—and even paralysis.

If you feel your condition was misdiagnosed or is the result of complications, understanding your legal options is crucial. Find representation with someone who understands your needs and medical concerns. This will make all the difference as you file a medical malpractice lawsuit.

What is Ossification of the Posterior Longitudinal Ligament? (OPLL)

This condition takes place when the posterior longitudinal ligament, which attaches to the spinal cord and runs along the spinal column, becomes thick and bony. This occurs when the soft tissues that connect the bones to the spine become calcified, resulting in compression of the spinal cord.

OPLL most commonly takes place in the cervical spine or the neck region. These cases are referred to as C-OPLL. In other instances, OPLL can take place in the thoracic spine, the longest region of the spine that’s attached to the rib cage. These cases are referred to as T-OPLL. 

Symptoms and Causes of OPLL

While there aren’t any known causes of OPLL, experts believe the disease stems from genetic, hormonal, environmental, and general lifestyle factors

Symptoms of OPLL can include the following: 

  • Pain, tingling, or numbness in the neck, shoulder, arm, or hand
  • Difficulty walking and leg weakness
  • Difficulty with bowel and bladder control

These symptoms can begin mild but over time can become more intensive, leading to a severe condition called myelopathy, or spinal cord compression.

Symptoms of myelopathy include:

  • Neck, arm, leg or lower back pain
  • Tingling, numbness or weakness
  • Difficulty performing fine motor skills
  • Difficulty with balance and coordination
  • Difficulty walking
  • Abnormal or increased reflexes in the hands and feet
  • Difficulty with bowel and bladder control

CT and MRI evaluations of the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spine are the gold standard when diagnosing OPLL

Treatments for OPLL 

Because OPLL can take many forms, treatment depends on the severity of symptoms.

Mild to Moderate Symptoms

Patients with mild to moderate symptoms can be treated with pain medications, anti-inflammatory medications, anticonvulsants, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and topical opioids. Patients exhibiting signs of myelopathy, however, may need to receive surgical care, as these symptoms can lead to permanent spinal cord injury when not addressed in time. 

Moderate to Severe Symptoms

Patients with moderate to severe symptoms may require surgical treatments.

Surgical treatments can include:

OPLL and Medical Malpractice

Neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons—the physicians who treat spine and spinal cord problems—often overlook and misdiagnose the symptoms of OPLL, due to inexperience or failure to order proper testing in patients with the above neurologic symptoms. 

The result of misdiagnosis or improper treatment of OPLL can be permanent paralysis or quadriplegia, or paralysis from the neck down. Other complications can include dural tear, subsequent cerebrospinal fluid leak, C5 palsy, hematoma, hardware failure, surgical site infections, and other neurological issues. These occurrences may be grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Misdiagnosed or Improperly Treated OPLL?

Misdiagnosed and improperly treated OPLL continues to result in needless suffering and life-changing disability in the United States. The attorneys at Hurley McKenna & Mertz have extensive experience representing victims of medical malpractice who have OPLL. 

If you or a family member have been a victim of medical malpractice and need help or have questions regarding OPLL, contact us for a free consultation or call us at 312-553-4900.

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