When someone is in need of a lifesaving medical procedure, they place their trust in medical professionals who have received years of training. Of course, these professionals are human and, unfortunately, they make mistakes. When a medial error occurs, it can put a patient’s life at risk.

One recent case out of North Carolina demonstrates the kind of life threatening errors that can occur in a hospital setting. A spokesman for the Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center, located in Wiston-Salem, announced that a mistake had lead to 18 patients being exposed to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. This condition, widely known as mad cow disease, affects the brain and is potentially deadly.

The cause of the problem was the use of substandard, inadequate sterilization procedures on surgical instruments that had been used on a patient suspected of having CJD. Typically, instruments used on patients suspected of having this disease undergo special sterilization procedures designed to rid them of prions, proteins believed to play a role in the development of CJD. Unfortunately, in this case, this did not occur and the instruments were subsequently used on neurosurgery patients.

Although the chances that these 18 patients will contract CJD are low, the reality is that they were exposed to a significant danger. CJD is very rare, but its effects can be devastating. Over time, individuals with this disease exhibit memory difficulties, problems with movement and changes in behavior. As the disease progresses, patients eventually lose the ability to move, fall into a coma and die. There is no known cure for CJD and the final diagnosis is only available after an autopsy is performed.

Though CJD is very rare, this is the second instance in recent months of neurosurgery patients being exposed to the disease as a result of error. Just five months ago, hospitals in New Hampshire, Connecticut and Massachusetts announced that 15 patients had been exposed to the disease.

As these cases demonstrate, the stakes in any medical procedure are high and even a small mistake can change a person’s life forever. If you have suffered an injury due to an error by a doctor or a hospital, it may be a good idea to speak to a personal injury lawyer. An attorney with experience representing those who have been injured by doctor errors can provide important advice about your rights. For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact an attorney today.