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Cauda Equina Misdiagnosis
Assessment Delays Leave Patient with Cauda Equina Syndrome

Assessment Delays Leave Patient with Cauda Equina Syndrome

A failure to respond urgently to the symptoms of cauda equina syndrome, has left a young man disabled.

Ian was an extremely active young man when he began to experience pain in his lower back. As the pain increased over a few days, he decided to visit the chiropractor. A thorough assessment was not possible due to the level of pain Ian was now experiencing but, based on Ian's description of his symptoms, the chiropractor suggested that he should seek medical help.

The following day Ian was unable to go to work because of the pain. He started to become aware of pins and needles and some numbness developing in his legs and saddle area. His legs suddenly gave way and he had to sit down.

Becoming increasingly anxious about his symptoms, Ian decided to go to Accident and Emergency. Once there, he described his symptoms to a doctor who carried out an anal squeeze examination as well as testing Ian's response to straight leg raising. Despite his request for an MRI scan, Ian was told that that was not possible and he was sent home with pain relief.

The doctor gave Ian no warning about the possible development of cauda equina symptoms despite the fact that her examinations suggest she thought this was a possibility. Consequently, Ian did not know that, if his symptoms deteriorated, he should return to Accident and Emergency immediately.

In fact, Ian's symptoms were already indicating that he might be developing cauda equina syndrome. Had an MRI scan been arranged immediately as he had requested, it is likely that it would have led to emergency surgery more than 24 hours earlier than in fact actually occurred.

Unfortunately, the painkillers did not help with Ian's symptoms and the following day the weakness and numbness in his legs and saddle area increased. A doctor paid Ian a home visit later that day and advised him to go to Accident and Emergency immediately.

Despite the fact that Ian arrived at hospital mid-afternoon and was now developing both bowel and bladder problems in addition to his existing symptoms, an MRI scan was delayed until the following morning. By this time, his symptoms had deteriorated yet again and his chances of a full recovery were significantly diminished.

Had the MRI scan been carried out as an emergency, it should have been possible for him to have surgery that same day. As a result, he would probably have experienced fewer long-term symptoms.

Ian's MRI scan showed a massive disc prolapse demanding emergency surgery. Ian was then transferred to another facility where he underwent surgery to decompress his cauda equina nerves

Due to the delay in assessing and responding to his symptoms, Ian continues to suffer difficulties with mobility as well as bowel and bladder function.

Many of the activities which he formerly enjoyed have become impossible to do and his ability to work has been restricted by his physical problems.

Ian approached Glynns for support in investigating the quality of his care and we found that the delays in responding to his symptoms contributed to his long-term problems.

As a result, Ian was awarded in excess of £200,000 in compensation for his pain, suffering and financial losses.

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

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