Pain Pump Product Liability Lawsuits: What You Need To Know

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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Shoulder pain pump lawsuits continue to be filed across the United States. More and more people who’ve had shoulder surgeries and are experiencing difficulties are realizing that the cause of those injuries may be due to use of a pain pump – even if their surgery was performed years ago. We interviewed Frank Woodson, an Alabama pain pump attorney whose firm represents patients injured by those devices, to explain what you need to know.

What are shoulder pain pumps?

A pain pump is a medical device that is basically a container that holds pain medication. Pain pumps have a tube with a catheter attached to them and that catheter is approved to be placed into the shoulder tissue for pain relief and will generally release pain medication into the shoulder area over a 48 to 72 hour period. According to Woodson:

Prior to pain pumps, medication was generally given orally, by injection or intravenously and would have to be monitored by medical staff. The catheter is similar to a garden hose that has a lot of little holes in it that you might put into a flower bed. In this case, you’d put the catheter into the shoulder tissue before you would close it surgically. After the pain medication was pumped into the shoulder area over the 48 to 72 hour period, the patient is instructed to simply pull the catheter out of the shoulder.

Why are pain pumps so dangerous?

If the pain pump is used properly, the risks are minimal. When going into a shoulder surgery, most patients should have a relatively good recovery after physical therapy period and in many cases be as good as new. However, as Woodson pointed out:

A tragedy has occurred with pain pumps. The catheter was intended and approved by the FDA (U.S. Food & Drug Administration) to be placed into the shoulder tissue. However, pain pump manufacturers began to market these products differently back in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. With advice from manufacturers, the pain pump catheters were being placed in the joint space or intraarticlular area which allowed the pain medication into the joint space. The pump manufactures had never been given approval to market the device and advise doctors to place the catheter in the joint space.

Woodson told us that when the catheter was being placed into the joint space instead of into the joint tissue or subacromial space, doctors began to see patients suffer severe damage to their shoulder cartilage that were rarely seen before. “That injury is the loss of cartilage, or loss of joint space, and is commonly called chondrolysis by physicians. It leads to severe pain because the cartilage in the shoulder space is gone and you end up with bone rubbing on bone. That will likely lead to the need for shoulder replacement at some point and will affect these patients for the rest of their lives.”

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