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Cauda Equina Misdiagnosis
Examination Failures Lead to Delayed Cauda Equina Surgery

Examination Failures Lead to Delayed Cauda Equina Surgery

Despite displaying the red flag symptoms of cauda equina syndrome, Maureen's medical practitioners failed to give her the necessary and urgent examinations which could have prevented her from suffering long-term problems.

Maureen had suffered with severe pain in her lower back and thighs for several months and was receiving support for this from both a pain clinic and the physiotherapy service.

However, the level of pain gradually increased to the point where Maureen was fainting with pain.

Eventually, she rang the out-of-hours service and was attended by a doctor who gave her a morphine injection for the pain.

Overnight, however, Maureen began to experience some altered sensation in her saddle area, a key symptom of cauda equina syndrome.

The following day, she contacted the out-of-hours service again and was attended at home by another doctor who, despite noting that Maureen was suffering with extreme pain in both legs, did not undertake an examination to try to establish whether she was exhibiting any of the other signs or symptoms of cauda equina syndrome.

Later that day, Maureen realised that she was starting to lose sensation in her bladder and rang her GP surgery. She was advised to call an ambulance, which she did.

Maureen attended A & E with pain in both legs, altered saddle sensation and numbness in her left foot. She also told hospital staff that she was experiencing altered bladder sensation. These are all red flag symptoms of cauda equina syndrome and Maureen should have undergone a thorough assessment of her bowel and bladder function as well as her level of sensation in the genital and perianal area. Had Maureen undergone a thorough examination, it is likely that she would have been referred for an emergency MRI and undergone surgery within hours. Instead, Maureen was sent home after a limited examination and told to keep taking her medication.

Maureen's symptoms continued to deteriorate overnight and she described her loss of sensation when urinating to her GP surgery the following day. The GP visited Maureen, who was now unable to walk to the toilet because of her pain. The GP consulted with a pain specialist and made an appointment for three days later.

When Maureen saw the pain consultant, the severe nature of her symptoms was finally recognised. She was referred for an emergency MRI, after which she was told that she was suffering with cauda equina syndrome.

Maureen underwent surgery the following day.

Maureen has been left with on-going pain which has reduced her ability to work. She is now also unable to control wind which has had a significant effect on her social habits.

Had Maureen undergone an MRI immediately following her A & E attendance, rather than four days later, it is likely that she would have retained satisfactory bowel and bladder function and would not have had to suffer the long-term effects which she now experiences.

Glynns Solicitors supported Maureen in her claim for compensation and she was awarded in excess of £30,000.

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

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