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Claiming Against Your GP For Cauda Equina Syndrome

Despite being a rare condition, Cauda Equina Syndrome is a common source of litigation. Cauda equina claims against GPs are particularly prevalent, as many general practitioners fail to understand the meaning of a patient’s symptoms, thereby causing a delay in diagnosis and treatment.

Why do GPs fail to diagnose Cauda Equina Syndrome?

Between 2003 and 2007, the Medical Protection Society was informed of 63 claims relating to Cauda Equina Syndrome. Of these, 43 claims were in relation to errors made by general practitioners, 11 related to orthopaedic surgery, two each to neurosurgery and radiology, and the remaining five to other medical specialities.

As the statistics show, cauda equina claims are more often against GPs than any other type of medical practitioner. This is because GPs do not always recognise the red flag symptoms associated with Cauda Equina Syndrome.

These symptoms occur when the cauda equina nerves located at the bottom of the spinal cord become compressed. This might be due to a slipped disc, a spinal tumour or a traumatic accident. Over time the pressure placed upon the nerves will cause them to suffer damage and consequently lose function. This may happen very rapidly, or the onset of problems may be gradual. Either way, when the cauda equina nerves lose function, a pattern of symptoms will emerge. Together these are known as the red flag symptoms of Cauda Equina Syndrome, and include:-

These are known as red flag symptoms because they should alert medical professionals that the cauda equina nerves are being compressed – something which requires immediate treatment. However, unfortunately not all GPs will have an understanding of Cauda Equina Syndrome, and therefore will not appreciate what the presence of these symptoms mean. Instead another more minor condition will be diagnosed (such as a urinary tract infection or generalised back pain) and no further investigations performed.

Claiming for GP negligence

Although a patient’s Cauda Equina Syndrome will be diagnosed later down the line (usually when his or her condition significantly deteriorates), it may well be too late. Indeed, Cauda Equina Syndrome must be treated as a matter of urgency, or a patient will suffer permanent neurological damage. Thus if a GP does not recognise a patient’s symptoms when they first present, causing a delay in diagnosis, the prospect of a patient making a full recovery will be severely diminished.

If you have been affected because your GP failed to diagnose Cauda Equina Syndrome, you could be entitled to compensation. Contact us at the Cauda Equina Solicitors to start your medical negligence claim.

Please call us free on 0800 234 3300, from a mobile click to call 01275 334030 or complete our Free Online Enquiry for a no cost, no obligation opinion.

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