Cauda Equina Syndrome and Clinical Negligence – delay in diagnosis


Posted by Patricia Wakeford, 20th August 2019
Clinical and Medical Negligence Legal Director Patricia looks at a delay in diagnosis of Cauda Equina Syndrome.

I was on my drive home and heard Clive Coleman on Radio 4 talking about this serious condition. He interviewed a young woman who suffered a delay in diagnosis and is now sadly wheelchair bound.

Cauda Equina Syndrome is a condition caused by pressure on the spinal nerves at the bottom of the spine due to a disc prolapse. Cauda equina is the term for the nerves at the base of the spine, which look like a horse’s tail. Damage to these nerves causes issues with the bladder, bowels, sexual function and legs.

There are certain red flag symptoms that all GPs and clinicians need to be aware of. These include, numbness between the legs (the saddle area), difficulty passing urine, sciatica (nerve pain) down both legs. Unfortunately, these can be missed with catastrophic consequences.

Sadly as clinical negligence solicitors at Blake Morgan, we have seen this type of case before. Clients require lifelong care, therapy and equipment and often ground floor accommodation. The psychological impact is also significant due to the life changes that occur.

I settled a case for a client who was a nurse. She was admitted to hospital promptly, but despite complaining of being unable to pass urine since the previous evening; nothing was done. When she did eventually have surgery, this was performed incorrectly. She required a further surgery, but by this point it was too late to alter the outcome. My client was unable to work and had difficulty walking as well as suffering urinary issues. At home she held on to walls for support and needed a wheelchair when outside of her home.

We were able to obtain compensation for her to purchase a ground floor bungalow and a yearly payment for life that will enable her to pay for the care and equipment that she will need in the future.

It is good that this condition is receiving journalistic attention. I hope that this will ensure that there are fewer delays in diagnosing this condition.

Contact our Clinical and Medical Negligence team for expert advice and assistance if you suffered a delay in diagnosis.

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