Case Study: Failure to Recognise Risks Leads to Cauda Equina Syndrome

Compensation: £250,000

Trisha, 36-year-old, London

A woman has successfully acquired £250,000 compensation after doctors failed to recognise the risk of the development of cauda equina syndrome.

Trisha had suffered with back pain since she was 20 years old.  Between the age of 25 years old and 33 years old she visited her GP on numerous occasions complaining of low back pain and sciatica.  Her GP referred her to the pain clinic at her local hospital for epidural injections, which were partially successful.

Potential for CES missed during MRI

When she turned 34 she underwent an MRI scan which showed some degree of lumbar disc herniation and degeneration at L4/L5.  Her symptoms continued for two years when her condition worsened.

That summer Trisha was taken by ambulance at 10pm one day to the A+E department at the same hospital complaining of severe pain and perineal numbness. The symptoms were so bad that she was unable to stand.  She was admitted to the ward and by midday the following day she was unable to pass urine and was catheterised.

She was then transferred to a specialist Neuro-Surgery centre by ambulance arriving at 2.30pm. An MRI scan taken shortly afterwards showed a large disc protrusion severely compressing the nerves of the cauda equina. 

She underwent spinal decompression surgery at 7pm the same day and was then transferred back to her local hospital where she remained until her discharge 4 weeks later.

Long term effects

Following surgery Trisha developed bladder and bowel dysfunction, both of which are permanent.  She self-catheterises several times a day and manages her bowels by manual evacuation and modification of her diet.  Not surprisingly, as a consequence of these difficulties Trisha has developed a depression for which she requires cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

The claim

JMW Solicitors alleged that the hospital was negligent in failing to recognise the risk of development of cauda equina syndrome (CES) following the MRI scan when she was 34, and failing to offer surgery at that time. It was also alleged that the hospital delayed performing an MRI scan following Trisha’s admission to hospital on and also delayed her transfer for surgery. 

It was also alleged that if the MRI scan had been performed soon after admission to the A+E department. 

Settlement

The case settled and Trisha was awarded £250,000 compensation for her claim.

Have you also suffered from a failure to recognise the risks of cauda equina syndrome?

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