Can I Claim For Cauda Equina Syndrome Misdiagnosis?6th Apr 2018
Medical practitioners correctly diagnose and treat illnesses and injuries in the vast majority of cases. In fact, just 0.005% of NHS treatment results in errors.
However, that’s small consolation for the unfortunate few who do suffer because of medical mistakes. Mistakes don’t necessarily mean that the doctor was neglectful or careless – some mistakes are unavoidable. But when the doctor was at fault, that is medical negligence.
One condition that is frequently misdiagnosed as another condition, or diagnosed too late, is cauda equina syndrome (CES). If you have suffered because your case was misdiagnosed, you might be thinking of making a claim to help compensate you for your losses and help to rebuild your life.
How Will I Know If I Can Make A Claim?
In order to make a successful claim you will need to be able to prove that you were a victim of a misdiagnosis and that you suffered as a result.
Your legal team will need to be able to demonstrate that the treatment you received fell below the level that is reasonably expected of a medical professional, and that because of that sub-standard treatment, you were caused harm. This proves that the doctor was liable for your misdiagnosed cauda equina syndrome.
The ‘test’ to determine if your treatment was negligent is based on expert medical opinion as to whether your medical history, presenting symptoms and signs were such that no responsible body of doctors would have failed to investigate, refer, diagnose or treat you appropriately and in good time.
Under What Circumstances Can I Make A Claim?
There are many reasons why you may be able to make a claim.
The most common circumstance is for misdiagnosis of cauda equina syndrome. Whether you first presented with symptoms at your GP, a walk-in centre or at A&E, the treating doctor may fail to take a detailed medical history, not perform the required tests, or miss key ‘red flag’ symptoms of CES which they should immediately recognise.
As such, and because many of the symptoms of cauda equina syndrome can be indicators of other conditions, doctors regularly misdiagnose the condition as something else. Common misdiagnoses of CES include:
- Generalised lower back pain – because one of the main symptoms of cauda equina syndrome can be severe pain in the lower back, often radiating through the buttocks and down the legs
- Fibromyalgia – because this condition causes pain throughout the whole body
- Urinary tract infections – because CES can cause problems with bladder and/or bowel function, such as incontinence or difficulty passing urine.
Another frequent cause for claims is delayed diagnosis. Unfortunately, cauda equina syndrome can come on extremely quickly, and the nerves need to be decompressed via surgery with the utmost urgency – within 24-48 hours. Due to symptoms being confused with other conditions, patients are regularly sent away as the doctors believe it is a minor back complaint.
Similarly, if the doctor fails to recognise any of the red flag symptoms which indicate that they patient could be suffering from CES, they may not order the correct tests in time. Or they could waste time putting the patient through irrelevant tests as they try to determine the problem. Either way, the condition may not be diagnosed within the crucial time window, by which point the damage to the patient’s nerves may sadly already be too severe to ever fully recover.
Sometimes damage to the cauda equina nerves can occur during spinal surgery. In a similar way, CES can develop post-operatively. Causes can include:
- Swelling around the cauda equina nerves
- Blood clots
- Leakage of spinal fluid
- Damage to blood vessels
- Inadequate lumbar decompression
- Remnants of intervertebral disc fragments
If the damage caused during surgery was avoidable, then you may have a claim for medical negligence.
Finally, if your CES was caused by a surgical mistake, and you did not give informed consent for that surgery, you could have grounds for a claim. If cauda equina syndrome was a potential risk for your planned surgery and you were not fully informed of that risk, but it was the ultimate result of your operation, then you were not fully informed. Informed consent can only be given when the patient is given full knowledge of the possible consequences, typical risks and benefits of any medical procedure.
What Kind Of Compensation Can I Claim?
As CES can be a completely debilitating condition, which can necessitate a wheelchair or crutches to aid mobility, months off work, or even mean you have to give up work altogether, the value of these claims can be significant.
Depending on the severity of your CES, you could claim: damages for the injury itself and the ongoing suffering and treatment you must endure, the cost of further surgery, the cost of physiotherapy to relieve the symptoms, loss of earnings (both during recovery and future earnings if you can no longer work), the cost of care, and the costs of aids and equipment now required to manage your disability.
In the most serious cases, claims can run into hundreds of thousands of pounds. Coles Miller’s cauda equina syndrome expert, partner David Simpson, successfully secured a settlement of £600,000 for one claimant. Read this case study to find out more.
Start Your Claim Now
We understand the amount of suffering you must have endured because of your CES, and how hard life can be trying to manage the symptoms. If you’d like to pursue a claim to try and make life a little easier, you will need expert legal advice from a specialist in these types of claims.
Get in touch today to book a free initial consultation with David. Medical negligence claims can be handled on a no win, no fee basis so there’s no financial risk to you.