Hospitals fail to organise MRI scan leaving dad with cauda equina syndrome - £475,000 in compensation

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Hospitals fail to organise MRI scan leaving dad with cauda equina syndrome - £475,000 in compensation

‘Gordon’, 50

Dad-of-two ‘Gordon’ had red flags of serious spinal injury cauda equina syndrome but was not given an urgent MRI scan, delaying his diagnosis and treatment with devastating results.

Mark Havenhand, a partner specialising in cauda equina syndrome cases at JMW, took on the case and was able to secure compensation totalling £475,000 for Gordon. The money will enable Gordon to cope with the financial consequences of his injuries.

What went wrong?

When Gordon began to suffer with pain in his lower back that radiated down his legs, he contacted his GP for help. At this point, Gordon did not have any problems with his bladder or bowel and the GP diagnosed sciatica and gave a prescription for pain relief.

However, two days later Gordon ‘s condition took a turn for the worse, and he began to experience numbness and pins and needles in both his legs. It was a Saturday, and Gordon’s wife called an ambulance which arrived a short time later. Gordon was also experiencing intense pain when he tried to stand up and was struggling to walk.

The ambulance took Gordon to his closest A&E department at a district hospital, where, after two examinations, it was acknowledged that he had red flags of cauda equina syndrome, a condition that is caused by pressure being put on the cauda equina nerves at the base of the spine that control bowel, bladder and sexual function. Doctors contacted a larger, more specialist hospital for advice about what to do, as this hospital had overall responsibility for any patients with suspected neurological conditions.

Unfortunately, the advice given by the specialist hospital was that it would be fine to leave the scan until Monday. As a result, Gordon was left on a ward at the district hospital for the remainder of the weekend. This was very poor care as cauda equina red flags represent an emergency, and, when they strike, an MRI scan should be carried out as soon as possible, with surgery within 24-48 hours of symptoms appearing if the diagnosis is confirmed.

The MRI scan was carried out on the Monday afternoon and revealed a bulging disc in Gordon’s spinal cord that was putting pressure his cauda equina nerves. However, it was not until the following evening that doctors made the decision to transfer him to the specialist hospital for surgery. By this point Gordon’s condition has deteriorated and he could no longer pass urine and had to have a catheter fitted.

Gordon arrived at the specialist hospital by blue light ambulance at around 6pm and at 2pm the following day he underwent surgery to remove the bulging disc. However due to the fact the surgery was significantly delayed, Gordon sustained permanent damage to his cauda equina nerves

JMW’s investigation

Gordon felt that something had gone badly wrong with his hospital treatment and contacted JMW for help in finding the answers he needed. His case was taken on by Mark Havenhand, a partner at JMW who specialises in cauda equina cases.

After listening to Gordon’s story and examining his medical records, Mark could see that there had been very poor communication between the two hospitals and there had been no clear plan of action to ensure a safe level of care was provided. Mark believed that as a result, Gordon was left without a diagnosis and treatment for an unacceptable amount of time.

Mark called on leading independent medical experts to provide their view, with them agreeing that the care had been negligent. Using this evidence, Mark built a strong case which he put to the two hospital trusts.

The specialist hospital trust admitted that its staff were negligent in advising that the MRI scan could wait until Monday and also that it was unacceptable for the surgery not to be carried out sooner. It further admitted that its poor care had caused Gordon to suffer permanent problems.

Nothing could turn back the clock, however Mark was able to negotiate a compensation settlement totalling £475,000 for Gordon to help him and his family to cope financially.

Mark Havenhand, a partner at JMW specialising in cauda equina cases at JMW who settled Gordon’s case, said:

“Gordon had clear red flags of cauda equina syndrome, yet his hospital treatment was sorely lacking. I hope lessons can be learned so that other patients receive the basic standard of care they are entitled to.”

Mark Havenhand, Partner
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