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Case Study: Fatal Missed Diagnosis of a Sub-Arachnoid Haemorrhage
With JMW's help a man has been awarded £150,000 after doctors misdiagnosed his wife's arachnoid haemorrhage which tragically led to her death.
Glenda presented at A&E with head and neck pain, which she had suffered from for a couple of hours. She had taken two Paracetemol but with no relief. She felt nauseous but had not vomited. She indicated that she had had similar episodes some two weeks ago which had spontaneously resolved.
No abnormalities were noted when the doctor performed an examination. A diagnosis of headache was made and she was given an injection of pain relief. She was reviewed later that night when she was noted to be feeling better. Although her blood pressure remained high, she was allowed home but advised to return if she had any problems.
Visits to the GP
Three days later Glenda called her GP's out of hours service in the morning. She complained of a bad headache and that her back and legs were aching. She had pain up her spine. She was seen by her GP who diagnosed back pain.
The next day Glenda attended her GP surgery again. He noted that she had pain in the right front neck and occiput (back portion of the head) but no visual problems, vomiting or nausea. Her blood pressure was high and was prescribed an anti-hypertensive (blood pressure reducing) drug.
On the same day, Glenda called the out of hours service again at night. She confirmed that she had had head pain for 4 days, her blood pressure was high and she had pain in her neck and temples. She was invited to attend the out of hours centre but did not arrive.
A call to the emergency services
By the early hours of the morning Glenda called 999 and was taken to A & E. Glenda was reviewed by the SHO (junior doctor) who noted pain in the neck and back of the head. It was noted that she looked unwell but she was alert and orientated. Her blood pressure remained high. The SHO diagnosed muscular neck pain and prescribed oral pain relief. Glenda was discharged.
The following day Glenda was visited by her GP who prescribed an antibiotic and presumed she had a urinary infection.
Two days later Glenda was again visited by her GP. She complained of noises in the head, which were very dependent on the position of the head. Her blood pressure remained high. She was prescribed Bendrofluazide (a diuretic used to treat high blood pressure).
Two days later Glenda collapsed whilst in the company of her husband. She was brought into hospital by ambulance. On arrival she was completely unresponsive with a high pulse rate and blood pressure. An urgent CT scan was performed which revealed a massive subarachnoid haemorrhage with intracranial bleeds. Glenda passed away within a few hours.
Our focus – clinical negligence
JMW Solicitors felt the hospital was negligent in the care afforded to Glenda, in that they failed to consider a diagnosis of subarachnoid haemorrhage or to refer her for further assessment on both initial visits to hospital.
It was alleged that had the correct diagnosis been made on either visit then Glenda would have been referred to a local neurosurgical unit where neurosurgery could have been performed and she would have had a 90/95% prospect of a full or near full recovery.
Having taken further advice from a General Practitioner expert, it was decided not to proceed against the GP nor the out of hours service.
The Hospital admitted that although Glenda did not have the classical features of subarachnoid haemorrhage consideration should have been given to a diagnosis given her age and the history of the onset of the headaches.
The outcome of the case
Terence, Glenda’s husband additionally pursued a claim in his own right for damages. He witnessed the sudden collapse of his wife and developed a major depressive disorder and an abnormal bereavement reaction. Terence managed to return to his work as an HGV driver after his wife's death until a year later when the impact of his symptoms became intolerable.
Terence received £150,000 compensation.
Contact us for advice today
If a loved one has been injured, or has sadly passed away, due to the misdiagnosis of a serious condition call the experienced team here at JMW Solicitors now on 0800 054 6512 or fill in our contact form.