Case Study: Failure to Act on Red Flag Signs of Cauda Equina Syndrome

Compensation: £500,000

Peter, 35, Manchester

A man has been awarded £500,000 compensation after doctors failed to act on serious signs of cauda equina syndrome which has led to life-changing complications

Peter was left with permanent bowel, bladder and sexual dysfunction, as well as disability and constant pain after delayed treatment of his cauda equina syndrome. As a result he lost his job and struggles with day-to-day tasks such as caring for his children. 

Start of nightmare

Peter was woken one in the early hours by lower back pain that radiated through his buttocks and down his right leg. He called his GP surgery later that day and was referred to an out-of-hours service. Peter was seen late that afternoon at a hospital in Manchester, here he was advised that he had sciatica and given an injection to help with the pain. 

Sent home by GP

The pain relief had little effect and Peter went to see his own GP on Monday, who sent him away and told him to rest and that his condition would improve in time. Once Peter was back at home his pain only became worse and was so severe that he could not sleep, sit down properly or lie down. He also began to experience tingling and spasms in his right buttock.

Condition missed at A & E

The next day the pain and spasms continued and Peter began to have difficulty urinating and opening his bowels. His wife had to help him off the toilet due to his spasms so they sought help at their local A&E where they told medical staff of his symptoms from the past couple of days. 

The doctor who attended to Peter told him he had a slipped disc and sent him home after giving him a diazepam tablet for his leg spasms and an injection of pain relief. The doctor said if his legs went numb he should return to A&E. Peter says the A&E doctor did not test the sensation in his saddle area, assess his anal tone or warn him to return to hospital if there was any alteration in his bladder function or numbness in his saddle area and buttocks. 

Condition deteriorates 

Peter returned home where he continued to experience extreme pain, difficulty urinating and spasms in his leg; however his right buttock also went numb. The next day, his wife called the GP surgery and spoke to a doctor, who did not ask any questions about Peter’s bladder and bowel function or numbness. The GP just gave Peter a prescription for further painkillers.

Transferred to a different hospital

The next day Peter’s condition was worse still. He had pain in his back and both legs as well as numbness in both buttocks and his groin area. He returned to A&E, where an anal examination revealed reduced tone. The doctor referred Peter for an MRI scan, however he faced delays at the hospital so had to be transferred to a different hospital the next morning for the scan. This revealed a large prolapsed disc and he was taken for decompression surgery later that morning. 

The claim

Pete’s case was taken on by specialist solicitor Angharad Hughes at JMW. It was alleged that doctors at both A&E and at the GP surgery failed to diagnose and act promptly enough on Peter’s symptoms of cauda equina syndrome. This meant that his treatment was significantly delayed, causing permanent nerve damage and his ongoing problems.

Settlement

The case was successfully settled for £500,000. The compensation will help Peter to move into a bungalow with better facilities given his reduced mobility and pain.

Have you or a loved one also suffered from failure to act on symptoms of cauda equina syndrome?

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