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Failed Surgeries on Weight-Bearing Joints

SSA lists disabilities that occur or continue after reconstructive surgery or arthrodesis of a major weight-bearing joint under 1.02. In order for a determination to be made that the individual is disabled, a return to use of the joint, and thus ability to walk effectively, either did not occur initially after surgery or is not expected to do so for at least 12 months.

Reconstructive surgery
Surgeries to repair damaged weight-bearing joints – hips, knees, and ankles – have become quite common. While many techniques may be used, generally reconstructive surgeries attempt to replace worn joint surfaces. Joints are lined with a tough material (called “cartilage”) that helps with shock absorption. When injury occurs, the cartilage may be damaged. Disease can also affect the area. Materials used to replace cartilage range from metal to polyethylene and ceramics. Occasionally a combination of materials will be used. This is generally determined by what caused the damage in the first place.

At times reconstructive surgeries fail to produce the results hoped for. This is especially the case with weight-bearing joints. If an elderly person with osteoporosis suffers a fall which shatters the hip joint, for instance, surgery can be complicated, if not problematic.

Arthrodesis is a term which applies to procedures such as fusion of joints that may be prescribed when reconstructive surgery has failed or is not an option. It is often used to relieve debilitating pain caused by fractures and arthritis. Among the types of arthrodesis that may be applied are bone grafts, bone substitutions, and metal implants. The major purpose of arthrodesis is to stabilize joints that have been destroyed or severely compromised.

Arthrodesis has been used less often for treatment of hip and knee dysfunction as arthroplasty has come into vogue. It is used for these weight-bearing joints, then, as a last resort.

Applying for benefits
When reconstructive and arthrodesis procedures fail to repair the major weight-bearing joint, you may qualify for disability. However, you must be able to prove that because of the continued joint dysfunction you will not be able to walk effectively for a period of at least twelve months. This entails gathering all the information relevant to your condition. Medical records will be required from all treating physicians. In addition, you may have to undergo an additional examination arranged by SSA if there is any question about your condition.

Unfortunately, to some degree failure of reconstructive or arthrodesis surgery is subjective. Moreover, what constitutes “walking effectively” may differ between treating physicians. It is highly suggested that you hire a New York disability lawyer to assist you with the often complex and technical matters related to SSD claims.

A New York disability lawyer can assist you with matters that are relevant to your claim and appeal. For a free evaluation, call Herbert Forsmith at (212) 809-1772.