Can Patients Sue Who May Have been Exposed to Fatal Brain Disease?

According to officials the eight New Hampshire patients range in age from their mid-30’s to their mid-80s. Due to privacy laws health officials have not provided any other identifying information about the eight patients.

In a breaking story: New Hampshire state officials said Wednesday that there is a possibility that eight patients may have been exposed to a rare and fatal brain disease. In what could turn out being one of the worst medical malpractice cases in recent times, we will have to wait and see what happens.

Officials said the exposure might have occurred due to surgery equipment that was used on a patient who was likely to have had the rare and incurable disease. According to officials in a news conference the patients that may have been exposed underwent brain surgery at Catholic Medical Center in Manchester, N.H. The operations occurred between May and August of this year.

The patients were notified of the possible exposure, according to officials. Officials stated that the surgical equipment was rented from Medtronic, a Minneapolis based company and may have been used on at least five other patients in other states, before officials knowing there may be contamination from the original patient. So this raises issues of liability of the manufacturer and all people in the chain of custody of manufacture to sales. This is in the public interests to spread the burden and increase a recovery if any.

However, the state of the law is also the case that one cannot sue for fear of an as of yet, present disease. The eight patients in New Hampshire and the five other patients from other states are not being named, according to officials. According to specialists, the first patient showed symptoms of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, when they underwent brain surgery in May, but it was not discovered until last month. The experts said that the standard methods of sterilizing surgical equipment before operations would not protect the surgical patients from this rare disease.

Health officials stated that the risk for the patients potentially exposed to the rare and deadly brain disease is extremely low, but after extensive expert discussion, the risk could not be entirely ruled out. Even minimal residues can survive being passed through incinerators, which is why it was determined the patients who were possibly exposed were notified.

According to the New Hampshire director of public health, Dr. Jose Montero said the patients had been provided with as much information as possible, and our sympathies are with all of the patients and their families. Dr. Montero stated that this is a difficult and confusing situation for the patients and their families, since they may be living with uncertainty for an extended amount of time.

The disease, Montero said can take years to develop and it is impossible to know whether the exposed patients will be affected by the illness, which eats away at the brain. According to officials, the eight New Hampshire patients range in age from their mid-30’s to their mid-80s. Due to privacy laws, health officials have not provided any other identifying information about the eight patients.

In any event, since Montero said the disease could take years to develop, these patients will probably suffer daily for the rest of their lives with this cloud over them.  But the fact of the matter is, it would be near impossible for them to recover for fear of a disease until they develop a disease that is causally connected to the exposure.

At least that is what they taught us in law school. But see “Recovery for Emotional Distress for Exposure to AIDS.” But in any event, a person would still need proof of exposure, and here, the facts show that the patients “may” have been exposed.  The damages appear to be too far attenuated to get a recovery here. If you want to learn more about brain injury law, contact Michael Ehline at (213) 596-9642.

Brain Injuries Sustained In Car Accidents Must Be Treated Immediately

Neither of these scans will detect the existence of a traumatic brain injury due to the fact that most traumatic brain injuries involve very subtle damage to tissue as well as chemical changes that occur in the brain in response to the injury.

As attorneys who frequently see people seriously injured in car accidents, my Chicago colleague Jonathan Rosenfeld and I lament how many physicians are still slow to diagnose brain brain injuries.  Consequently, we see many clients who have unknowingly sustained various types of closed head injuries in car accidents involving all types of impacts.  Below Jonathan shares some of his experiences with these particularly cruel injuries.

The brain is the most important organ in the human body while also being one of the most fragile parts of the body as well. Mother Nature offered us protection in the form of a thick skull that would act as a barrier between our fragile brain matter and the outside world. However, due to the high impact of most car accidents, that protective measure given to us through biology can also cause complications that result in traumatic brain injury that we are often unaware of initially after an accident. If you have sustained a traumatic brain injury as the result of a car accident in the greater Chicago area, you may want to consult a Chicago car accident lawyer ( to see if you are owed compensation.

Most traumatic brain injuries are not immediately identifiable because the symptoms may not show themselves immediately after a car accident. Paramedics are trained to provide medical care to those involved in an accident regardless of how they actually feel due to the possibility of brain injuries that remain asymptomatic. Oftentimes, when a person’s body comes to a sudden halt during a car accident, the brain continues moving and bounces around inside of the skull. Many injuries in which the skull is fractured are far less severe than those with no damage to the skull due to the buildup of pressure that occurs inside of the brain when it is bruised and swelling.

If you are in a car accident, you should never assume that you are not in need of medical care simply because you are not exhibiting symptoms. Traumatic brain injuries develop over time as the brain tissue that has been affected by an impact swells and bleeds. Because there is nowhere for the blood to go in the brain, the bleeding makes the situation worse by creating pressure to surrounding brain tissue. In its mildest form, this type of injury is referred to as a concussion.

Signs of brain injuries

If you have sustained a concussion, you may or may not exhibit immediate symptoms. Some of the signs of a concussion are the loss of consciousness during the accident for any time period ranging from a few seconds to a few minutes. You do not need to lose consciousness to sustain a concussion and if you feel disorientated, confused, tired or dizzy, you may have sustained a traumatic brain injury. Over time, you may experience blurred vision, nausea, severe headaches, migraines or a deep state of fatigue.

Signs of more serious trauma to the brain include the loss of consciousness for greater periods of time, inability to awake once asleep, slurred speech, seizures and loss of bowel control. In order to prevent the onset of more serious symptoms, make sure to receive proper medical treatment after you have been involved in any kind of car accident, regardless of how severe. You can sustain trauma to the brain even if you were not going very fast before the impact.

Diagnosing Brain Injuries

Not all brain imaging scans will detect traumatic brain injuries but there are several important brain imaging tests that will identify what others cannot. The most common brain image scans are CT, or CAT scans and MRIs. Neither of these scans will detect the existence of a traumatic brain injury due to the fact that most traumatic brain injuries involve very subtle damage to tissue as well as chemical changes that occur in the brain in response to the injury. DTI, PET and SPECT scans are all more effective in diagnosing a traumatic brain injury, but none of these scans will ultimately change the medical treatment that is prescribed.

Not all of the effects of brain damage are reversible and some people who sustain traumatic brain injuries will never be the same again. Brain injuries can affect motor function, the ability to concentrate, speech, memory and other functions that most of us take for granted. It is for this reason that it is important to diagnose a traumatic brain injury as quickly as possible in order to prevent future complications.

If you have been diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury as a result of a car accident and live in the greater Chicago area, you may wish to consult with a Chicago car accident lawyer to discuss whether or not you are owed compensation for your injury. Jonathan Rosenfeld of Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers (http://www.rosenfeldinjurylawyers) is an injury lawyer who has experience representing clients involved in motor accidents and who have had their lives changed by a debilitating injury such as a traumatic brain injury (


Florida Brain Injury Attorney Weighs In On The Role Of Physicians In The Lawsuits Brought By Former N.F.L. Players

Former athletes seeking damages for lost wages, pain and suffering, and medical treatment as a result of brain trauma continue in their legal battles with the NFL.

In this treatise, Florida personal injury lawyer, Matt Dolman discusses the role physicians played in the recent NFL lawsuits. In 1994, the same year the Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee was established, professional football player Junior Seau was named NFL’s Man of the Year. Last Wednesday, May 2, 2012, Seau shot himself in the chest, taking his own life. It is believed that Seau was suffering from the enervating disease that deteriorates one’s frontal lobes, dictates neurological impulses and eventually leads to death, often by suicide.  The brain trauma he suffered from was almost certainly related to repeated blows to the head sustained over his NFL career.

Seau’s death has compelled many former NFL players to step forward and share their stories through lawsuits against the NFL. Past events have insinuated that Seau’s death is not an anomaly. Six former NFL players have died of abnormal causes including Andre Waters, Terry Long, Mike Webster, Shane Dronett, Dave Duerson, and Ray Easterling. The NFL is facing a serious concussion crisis, with hundreds of lawsuits filed over the past eighteen months against the league. But who is responsible? Is the league to blame for the epidemic of brain trauma that has recently come to ? The players? The coaches? The doctors? To reach a solution, understanding the doctor-patient relationship in the NFL is vital.

Many fans are under the impression that NFL doctors are the cream-of-the-crop; carefully selected by NFL teams to provide the very best medical attention to players, so their human investments can remain lucrative. Sadly, this is not always the case. Many believe doctors are paid a salary by the team; however, most team doctors actually pay the team hundreds of thousands of dollars themselves, to have rights as the team doctor.  They ultimately obtain the privilege to promote themselves as the official team physician. This is not to suggest that team physicians are questionable doctors, because many times they are in fact exceptional, but that’s not usually how they got the job.  Further, how well versed are these physicians in evaluating closed head injuries?  As a Florida traumatic brain injury lawyer, I have seen many physicians ignore obvious clinical signs of a brain injury and focus on the more obvious orthopedic ailments.

So who’s really monitoring the concussions on the sidelines? Is it a skilled expert, or the most qualified member of the medical team that paid for the rights to be there? Either way, it’s evident that the majority of doctors on the field lack proper training in managing concussions. There are various protocols for treating concussions, all currently based on expert opinions and rarely on scientific evidence. These guidelines state that it is acceptable to return an athlete back onto the field if symptoms are minimal and temporary.

Let’s put this into perspective. It’s the final quarter and the quarterback is viciously tackled. He finds it difficult to stand up and noticeably stumbles. The QB makes his way to the sideline and complains he has a headache but otherwise he feels normal and he wants to be put back into the game. Should he? Is the team doctor liable to thoroughly examine the player? The answer is no. If the athlete does not ask for medical assistance then he may never receive it. If he is downplaying his symptoms and wants to be tenacious and get back out on the field, then he may even go so far as to refuse to be evaluated. Keep in mind a concussed athlete does not make practical decisions due to the symptoms of the concussion itself. If the athlete is examined, the physician must decide whether the athlete is well enough to return to play.

The athlete may be given ibuprofen for the headache, but that’s where treatment stops. There is no educational information given to the player regarding their concussion, because the clock is running and the game must continue on. With no educational information presented, the athlete returns back to practice and on to next week’s game. For years, this is how NFL players suffering from mild concussions were able to remain playing and remain putting themselves at risk for additional head injuries. Now that these players have retired, and permanent long-term damages are being brought to light, we are finally able to acknowledge the seriousness of concussions and post-concussion syndrome.
Physicians are now aware that head injuries have cumulative effects and that it is not okay for a concussed athlete to ever return back into a game.

League guidelines for head injuries have been established and experts in the field of concussions are now stationed on the sidelines. Former athletes seeking damages for lost wages, pain and suffering, and medical treatment as a result of brain trauma continue in their legal battles with the NFL. Their cases question the patient-team-doctor relationship. The league cannot erase the faulty judgments they have made in the past regarding head injuries, but they can continue to support safety measures that prevent unnecessary brain injury to current players.

Contact us to learn more:

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Imaging Studies Utilized In Traumatic Brain Injury Cases

This new technology is not only useful in the medical field but now can be a tool, utilized by plaintiff’s lawyers to illustrate an injury to the brain.

As a Tampa Bay area traumatic brain injury attorney, it is a function of my job to learn as much as possible about the different imaging studies utilized to illustrate traumatic brain injuries.  Please follow my blog both on this site and at to learn more about the ever evolving area of medicine concerning closed head injuries and traumatic brain injuries as well as how this is affecting plaintiff lawyers who seek to demonstrate such injuries to juries throughout the State of Florida.

PET Scan

PET (Positron Emission Tomography) relies on a radionuclide (an isotope) with a half life of twenty minutes that is injected into the body with an intravenous drip of glucose.  The patient is then provided a number of cognitive tasks, which will provide stress (activity) to specific sections of the brain when forced to perform mental work. The healthy areas of the brain will absorb large portions of the radioactive glucose and will show up as a bright orange or read when the patient’s head is placed under the gamma camera.  The areas of the brain that are damaged or dying will in turn absorb very little of the fluid and will display as blue or purple under the gamma camera.

PET scans provide very dynamic illustrations of injury to the working brain.  Many brain injuries illustrated by PET scan would be missed utilizing a less sensitive imaging like a CT or MRI scan.  Further, the PET scan helps illustrate damage and deficits in the areas of the brain that control memory, mood, concentration, ability to analyze and many other critical areas that make up what is known as “executive thinking.”

PET scans are admissible in the State of Florida to prove up the existence of a brain injury and there is a long line of case law in support of such.  With a proper foundation created by utilizing a sound expert, a Florida traumatic brain injury attorney can utilize this dynamic study and show 3D color images of the brain with great clarity to the jury.


SPECT (Single Photo Emission Computed Tomography) Scan is a nuclear diagnostic imaging test that measures regional changes in the brain’s activity.  A radioactive tracer is injected and absorbed as it circulates through the blood stream.  A camera is utilized to snap photos of how the tracer is being absorbed and this information is transmitted to a computer which will display cross sectional images of blood flow in the brain.

SPECT Scans are much cheaper that a PET Scan but the images are not nearly as precise and it does not serve as strong as a demonstrative aid as does the PET. However, SPECT scans are more readily available than PET.  The biggest difference between the two imaging studies is that the tracer stays in your blood stream in a SPECT as opposed to being absorbed into tissue as in a PET Scan.  Thus, the images are limited to where the blood actually flows.
FMRI (Functional MRI)

A functional MRI of the brain is a non-invasive diagnostic study providing high- resolution reports of neural activity detected by blood oxygen level dependent signal.  Again, this study examines the brain’s response to specific tasks but does not require an isotope injection and the scanning time is much quicker.    FMRI’s are not used as commonly as PET or SPECT Scans for diagnosing traumatic brain injury.  The criticism of FMRI is it’s inherent limitations in spatial and temporal resolution.  Due to the rapid scanning time, the images are often less clear.  MRI’s are more of a structural test and display less information about the internal tissue.  MRI’s cannot be used if the patient has ventilation equipment or pacemaker as a result of the magnetic field.

Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI)

Diffusion Tensor Imaging (hereinafter referred to as “DTI”), is an MRI which utilizes magnetic pulses to measure the diffusion (outward movement) of molecules of water in relation to brain fiber in six different planes.  It measures the diffusion of water through brain tissue and allows the Radiologist to estimate the damage to nerve fibers that connect the white matter of the brain.

The predominant theory behind DTI scans is the ability to detect “white matter lesions.”  White matter lesions are cells that are dead or damaged within the brain tissue.  DTI isolates water movement within the brain, enabling physicians to isolate specific regions of the brain that are functioning improperly. Typical MRI’s cannot track the movement of water molecules. This new technology is not only useful in the medical field but now can be a tool, utilized by plaintiff’s lawyers to illustrate an injury to the brain.  The images are very crisp and can produce dramatic proof of damage to a specified area of the brain.  This can prove to be a tremendous demonstrative aid for a plaintiff attorney attempting to prove up the existence of a mild traumatic brain injury.

Unfortunately for us brain injury attorneys for Clearwater, DTI has not been accepted as an admissible test in many jurisdictions.  In Hillsborough County, DTI was ruled in the case of Hammer vs. Sentinel Insurance to be a commonly accepted medical test that has been peer reviewed and can be utilized by the appropriate physician to correlate the existence of a traumatic brain injury.

Susceptibility Weighted Imaging (SWI)

SWI is a diagnostic test utilizing high resolution imaging to detect injury to the brain manifested in the form of a microhemorrhage or shearing /tearing of the axons of the brain also known as a diffuse axonal injury. This new technology allows medical practitioners to see even the smallest lesions of the brain.

SWI is very sensitive to both iron and blood products and as a result, can locate microhemorrhages that would be missed by a conventional MRI. Many Radiologists and physicians treating victims of mild traumatic brain injury utilize both susceptibility weighted imaging and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) in conjunction to best illustrate the existence and extent of diffuse axonal injury and brain lesions.  SWI is a very new technology and much is still to be learned about the use of this study and its applicability in a Florida Courtroom.  This was a great review of medicine and law and we want to thank Dolman Law firm for guest speaking today.

Traumatic Brain Injuries From Car Accidents

Unfortunately, many victims of accidents don’t consider their injuries to be serious. They may consider nausea, some headache, or confusion to be caused by the stress of an accident. All victims of accidents should be evaluated on the scene by emergency personnel such as emergency medical technicians.

Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) from car accidents can be some of the most initially misleading and eventually debilitating injuries.  In the U.S., traumatic brain injuries are a contributing factor of over 30% of all injury-related fatalities.  More than 40% of traumatic brain injuries result from car collisions.  Traumatic brain injuries do not even require the head to be struck for the damage to happen.  The common whipping backward and forward of the neck can cause the brain to be bruised even against the skull that is supposed to protect it.  Any suspected injuries need to be taken seriously and TBIs ruled out.

Unfortunately, many victims of accidents don’t consider their injuries to be serious.  They may consider nausea, some headache, or confusion to be caused by the stress of an accident.  All victims of accidents should be evaluated on the scene by emergency personnel such as emergency medical technicians.  Such first responders to the scene can determine at least whether or not the victim has a concussion, alteration to the way the brain functions.  However, these first responders are not generally qualified to diagnose or rule out brain trauma.  If there is any chance of any head or brain injury at all, even without the head being struck, the victim should be taken to a hospital for full evaluation.

Full evaluation of traumatic brain trauma requires specialists and specific equipment because injuries are often unseen behind the thick, protective skull.  Symptoms may not even occur for hours or days after the injury, so there is no way that the victim can determine that he is without injury.  Special ways of imaging, such as CT scans, can allow the doctors to see what the eye cannot and diagnose and treat the patient properly.

If any appear, some symptoms of brain trauma might include:

•    Loss of consciousness.
•    Fixed pupils or differences in pupil size.
•    Headaches.
•    Nausea and vomiting.
•    Language and Speech problems.
•    Behavior changes.
•    Change in or loss of vision.

Long term effects can include a loss of memory, changes in personality or ability to manage emotions, loss of function, coma, or death. If you or your loved one is from a California city, including Pacific Beach, San Diego, or Oakland, and are the victim of an accident caused by another’s negligence, a personal injury lawyer at Ehline Law can help you get medical treatment and evaluation now, and even eventual recompense.

How Susceptibility Weighted Imaging is Being Used to Study Brain Injuries

Nuclear radiologists are beginning to use susceptibility weighted imaging (SWI) brain MRI protocol to detect damage that has been done to the brain. The SWI testing was first used by radiologists to determine hemorrhages in the brain that are caused during strokes, which could be missed using a conventional MRI.

The new testing that is being used will allow the radiologist to be able to identify even small lesions in the brain. This is brain damage that can be done by micro-hemorrhages, sheering or tearing of axons and defused axonal injuries.

Brain injury testing by many radiologists and physicians are using the susceptibility weighted imaging for their patients with mild traumatic injuries, along with diffusion tensor imaging to have the best results in viewing the extent of diffuse axonal brain damage and lesions.