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Cauda Equina Misdiagnosis

GP Fails To Diagnose Cauda Equina Syndrome

After developing the red flag symptoms of cauda equina syndrome, Tania sought help from two different general practitioners. Sadly they both failed to diagnose her condition, causing her to suffer permanent nerve damage.

In 2001, Tania was involved in a road traffic accident and suffered a slipped disc. She received chiropractic treatment but could not afford it in the long-term. She therefore put up with the pain back in her lower back, although this did not prevent her from leading a normal life.

That changed, however, in June 2010. Standing up from the sofa one evening, Tania suddenly experienced intense shooting pains in her lower back, down the rear of both legs and down to her knees.

The following day the pain had not subsided. Becoming worried, Tania's husband phoned the GP surgery and asked a doctor to make a home visit. A trainee GP arrived around midday. By this time the pain had disappeared, only to be replaced with numbness across her legs, bottom and back.

After describing her symptoms to the GP, Tania was prescribed strong painkillers. She took the prescribed dose but her condition continued to deteriorate. The numbness spread from her lower back down to her knees. The mother of one also began to lose control of her bladder.

She told her husband about this when he returned from work that evening. He began researching on the internet and found a condition called cauda equina syndrome. It sounded serious, so he urged Tania to make an appointment with the out-of-hours GP service, as it was by now a Friday evening.

Tania secured a GP appointment for 10.50pm that night. She went through all her symptoms in detail and mentioned the possibility of cauda equina syndrome. Sadly the GP was extremely indifferent. He did not examine Tania and told her it definitely was not CES. He then told her to “go home and get on with some chores”.

Understandably, she was extremely upset by the way she was treated. She had seen two GPs in as many days, both of whom had been dismissive and even rude. Feeling like a time-waster, Tania simply went home and tried to get on as best she could. Even so, she was suffering from constant urinary incontinence, while the numbness was ever present.

Tania suffered the whole weekend with these symptoms, but on Monday morning decided to return to her GP surgery. Thankfully she was seen by a different doctor. He immediately became concerned about her condition and urgently referred her for an MRI scan. This revealed that Tania did in fact have cauda equina syndrome, as her slipped disc was pressing upon the root nerves.

Decompression surgery was carried out the following day. Treatment has improved Tania's symptoms slightly, but she continues to have poor bladder and bowel control. She also has reduced sensation in her genital area and left leg, constant lower back pain and faecal leakage.

All of these problems mean Tania is now largely housebound, as she is scared to travel far from a toilet. Her whole life has been irreparably turned upside down, something which could have been avoided had either GP made an accurate diagnosis.

We helped Tania make a claim for a delayed diagnosis of cauda equina syndrome. She was awarded over £90,000 compensation.

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

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