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Delayed Diagnosis of Cauda Equina Syndrome

Delayed Diagnosis of Cauda Equina Syndrome
After seeking medical attention for over six months, Josie was eventually found to have a central disc prolapse compressing the nerves in her spine. Treatment was provided but by that stage it was too late and she has been left with devastating complications.

When Josie sought advice from her GP regarding a persistent leg pain, she was given painkillers. Within two months, however, she had developed further symptoms of severe pains in her left leg and groin, and discomfort while urinating. This time she presented to the nearest A&E department, but again she was only given medication.
Her symptoms continued so Josie’s GP arranged for some x-rays to be performed. These revealed that she had a slipped vertebral disc, but no further action was taken. By the following month she also had severe pain in her left buttock and sciatica. Again she was given painkillers.

Josie was in so much agony that she could not work, so she went to A&E for further help. She was told nothing could be done and was referred back to her GP. She attended her GP’s surgery several times over the next week, now also suffering from numbness in the genital and saddle area between her legs. This numbness soon extended to her left buttock and thigh. The pain in her lower back became very severe, making it difficult for her to sit, stand or walk for any length of time.

All these symptoms are characteristic of cauda equina syndrome, and at this stage Josie should have undergone an urgent MRI scan. This would have shown that a central disc prolapse was pressing on her cauda equina nerves and decompression surgery would have been performed, preventing her condition from deteriorating. But unfortunately her GP failed to recognise the red flag symptoms of cauda equina syndrome and instead prescribed Josie more and more painkillers.

Over the next two months, Josie also developed bladder and bowel problems. Once again, Josie repeatedly sought assistance from her GP, but this time she was simply referred to the back clinic.

When she started to experience faecal leakage, Josie was so concerned and in so much pain that she went back to A&E. This time she was seen by a neurosurgeon who said she was constipated, and this was causing her bladder dysfunction. Despite being in absolute agony and being unable to move, Josie was discharged home with a prescription for medication.

Finally, the following month, Josie’s physiotherapist organised an MRI scan. This was performed and by the end of the following month the results had been assessed by an orthopaedic surgeon who told Josie she needed a discectomy operation.

However, the surgeon did not regard her case as an urgent one and the operation was not carried out for over a month. Sadly, by this stage, the nerves had suffered irreparable damage and despite treatment, Josie’s condition is no better. She cannot fully empty her bladder and finds it painful to pass urine.

Josie suffers chronic pain and she cannot walk without the use of walking sticks. She is now unable to work due to her complications, which will continue for the rest of her life. This has had a devastating impact upon her financial situation.

Her terrible circumstances could have been avoided, had doctors diagnosed cauda equina syndrome in a timely fashion. Because of their repeated failings Josie cannot lead a normal life, nor will she do so in the future. We helped her claim for the physical, emotional and financial suffering she has been caused and recovered over £400,000 compensation on her behalf.

(Details which might identify our client have been changed.)

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