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Delay in Diagnosing Prolapsed Disc Leads to Cauda Equina Syndrome

A patient who developed Cauda Equina Syndrome after her prolapsed disc was misdiagnosed, has been awarded substantial damages.

The Lancashire woman’s ordeal began in August 2010 when she began suffering severe pain in her back. When the pain started radiating down her legs she underwent an MRI scan which revealed a prolapsed disc was pressing on the nerves at the base of her spine.

The bundle of key nerves that are located at the lower end of the spinal cord are known as the ‘Cauda Equina.’ If this area of the spinal canal is damaged or compressed in any way, it can lead to ‘Cauda Equina Syndrome.’
Cauda Equina Syndrome (CES) is a type of ‘spinal stenosis,’ where all the nerves in the lower back become severely compressed. If left untreated, CES can lead to permanent paralysis and bladder and bowel incontinence.

Following the woman’s MRI scan, the radiographer failed to treat her condition as an emergency. When her scan results were then sent to the Royal Blackburn Hospital, the radiographer there also failed to treat her case as an emergency.

When she went to see her GP three days later, she was referred to an orthopaedic surgeon at the Royal Blackburn Hospital and then to the Royal Preston Hospital for surgery the following day but by this time, it was too late.

CES is a serious medical emergency that requires immediate admission to hospital for investigation and possible surgery. Early diagnosis and surgical spinal decompression are essential to bring about any potentially positive outcome as the longer CES goes untreated, the greater the chance it could lead to permanent neurological damage.

As a consequence of the delay in treating this woman, she has now been left with CES which means she is doubly incontinent and suffers permanent pain in her legs which makes walking incredibly difficult.

All medical professionals are trained to look out for so-called ‘Red Flag’ symptoms that may indicate CES. These include: severe lower back pain, impaired bladder, bowel or sexual function, and pain, numbness or weakness in one or both legs.

It is frankly astonishing that this woman’s symptoms weren’t treated as seriously as they should have been following her scan, as without the delay in her treatment, she would have made a near full recovery.

If you think you may have CES and one or more of the above red flag symptoms, you should ensure you are admitted to hospital as soon as possible. Any failure to diagnose CES early enough, or carry out further investigation or surgery when CES is suspected, could be the basis for a potential medical negligence compensation claim if neurological damage occurs as a result.

The Slater and Gordon Spinal Injuries team has access to a network of treatment providers and medical experts with a vast range of experience in helping people who have suffered serious injuries. We can arrange medical treatment, physiotherapy, counselling, retraining, re-housing and many other rehabilitation services. Whatever the nature and extent of your injuries, we will make sure you are in the very best hands.

Slater and Gordon are proud to be a Ruby Corporate Sponsor of the Spinal Injuries Association, the leading national charity for spinal cord injured people and their families.

For a free consultation, call us on freephone 0800 916 9046 or contact us online and we will call you.

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