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Junior Doctors Fail To Spot Cauda Equina Syndrome

Cauda Equina Syndrome is thought to affect between one in 33,000 to one in 100,000 people in the UK each year. It is therefore a very rare condition, and not all medical professionals will come across it during the course of their career.

Negligence of junior doctors in A&E

Even so, doctors should have an understanding of Cauda Equina Syndrome. A competent doctor should be able to recognise the characteristic symptoms associated with cauda equina nerve compression, and appreciate the need to perform an urgent examination and MRI scan to determine whether or not this suspected diagnosis is correct.

However, we have dealt with several cases in which a patient has presented to their nearest Accident and Emergency department, only to be seen by a junior doctor. There is nothing unusual about this, as junior doctors often perform initial assessments of A&E patients.

Nevertheless, the problem is that many junior doctors have not attended a patient with Cauda Equina Syndrome before, and thus do not understand the nature – and indeed the severity – of a patient’s symptoms. Instead they note a patient is suffering back pain and altered urinary habits and assume a more minor condition is at play – usually a urinary tract infection. A patient is subsequently discharged from hospital with the wrong advice.

But this should not be allowed to happen. Rather, a junior doctor should take steps to confirm his or her verdict. Continuing with the same example, if a urinary tract infection is suspected, urine and blood tests should be taken to ensure this is the correct diagnosis. But if the test results do not support this opinion, the junior doctor must revise their decision. If he or she is uncertain as to what should happen next, no time should be wasted in seeking the advice of a senior doctor.

Claiming for a delay in diagnosis

But unfortunately junior doctors do not always take the correct course of action, and a patient is consequently misdiagnosed. This can, however, result in devastating injuries for the individual concerned. This is because Cauda Equina Syndrome will, if not treated in time, cause permanent damage to the cauda equina nerves. These control the function of the bladder, bowel and sexual organs, and enable sensation in the buttocks, genitalia and legs. A patient will therefore be left with compromised function of the bladder and bowel, and will be unable to feel their pelvic area and legs.

When a patient suffers complications such as the ones described above, and this can be attributed to the failings of doctors, there will be grounds for a medical negligence claim. If you believe this has happened to you, contact us at the Cauda Equina Solicitors to discussing claiming compensation.

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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