Hospital errors lead to woman developing cauda equina syndrome - £450,000

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Hospital errors lead to woman developing cauda equina syndrome - £450,000

‘Claudia’, 48

Claudia was left with long-term physical consequences that included neuropathic pain, sexual dysfunction, bladder and bowel dysfunction and psychiatric injury after errors were made in the treatment of cauda equina syndrome.

First Signs

Claudia had a history of low back pain which her GPs managed to treat with pain relief medication. When Claudia began to suffer with severe pain in her hip, she saw her GP again and was diagnosed with sciatica.

A couple of months later, Claudia felt something pop in her back. The previous back and hip pain she had been suffering with disappeared and Claudia assumed the disc must have popped back into place. Shortly after this incident, Claudia noticed that her left leg had gone numb.

Claudia therefore contacted NHS 111 and a home visit was arranged with a doctor. The doctor examined Claudia and found her to be suffering from left leg weakness, reduced sensation in the back of the left thigh and no sensation over her left heel. Further, although she could feel the need to pass urine, the flow was weaker. The doctor therefore contacted the hospital and spoke to an orthopaedic surgeon who recommended not taking her to hospital and waiting to see how things progressed.

However, before the end of the home visit, Claudia developed new numbness in the back of her right thigh. The doctor re-contacted the orthopaedic surgeon and was advised that Claudia would need to be seen in A&E.

Hospital errors

Claudia attended A&E straight away, but despite it being recorded that there was numbness going down.

Claudia’s left leg, the orthopaedic surgeon failed to record that Claudia also now had numbness in her right leg, and also incorrectly recorded that she had no urinary symptoms.

Claudia was admitted with a view to being reviewed by rheumatology in the morning as it was thought she was suffering from a musculoskeletal condition rather than anything affecting the nerves in her spinal cord.

An MRI was requested the next day at 12:03pm but was not performed until late in the afternoon and not reviewed by a radiologist until 5:17pm. The scan revealed a very large bulging spinal cord disc that was compressing the cauda equina nerves at the base of her spine and causing symptoms of cauda equina syndrome.

Claudia was transferred to another hospital where she underwent surgery, two days following the initial onset of her ‘red flag’ symptoms. She was discharged home three days later.

JMW’s investigation

Jodie Miller, a solicitor at JMW specialising in spinal injuries, took on Claudia’s case after she contacted us for advice. Jodie found that the hospital had failed to recognise that Claudia was suffering ‘red flag’ symptoms of cauda equina syndrome.

As a result, Claudia underwent decompression surgery later than she required to be able to make a recovery. Jodie alleged that, had surgery been undertaken earlier, most of Claudia's neurological symptoms would have been reversed.

In response to our allegations, the hospital denied there were any ‘red flag’ symptoms and stated it was reasonable to assume Claudia was suffering from something less serious.

Successful medical negligence case

However, Jodie pushed on with the case and was eventually successful in securing £450,000 in compensation to enable Claudia to cope with the financial aspects of the permanent problems she has been left with.

Jodie Miller, a solicitor specialising in cauda equina syndrome cases at JMW who handled Claudia’s case, commented:

"This case highlights the urgency of cauda equina syndrome symptoms and why a diagnosis needs to be made promptly and surgery carried out urgently. Once the damage is done it is too late but in Claudia’s case her injuries were completely avoidable."

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JMW Solicitors LLP is a leading Manchester law firm and offers a broad range of legal services to both commercial and private clients. To speak to someone please use our online enquiry form or call us on 0345 872 6666.

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