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Cauda Equina Misdiagnosis
Undiagnosed Prolapsed Disc Causes Cauda Equina Syndrome

Undiagnosed Prolapsed Disc Causes Cauda Equina Syndrome

After seeking medical attention for nine months, Nicki was diagnosed with a prolapsed disc and surgery carried out. Sadly the delay in treatment has irreparably damaged her cauda equina nerves, leaving her with long-term complications.

When Nicki started to suffer left leg and hip pain, she attended her GP. He diagnosed a pulled hamstring and recommended painkillers.

This did not help Nicki manage the pain and, within months, she had to crawl around the house as she could not even stand up, such was the pain. One morning she woke up and could not feel her legs. She was very scared and rang her GP surgery to ask for a home visit. The receptionist refused, saying Nicki should visit the surgery when she could walk again.

In the following weeks she tried physiotherapy and acupuncture but this had no effect, so she contacted her GP practice to book an appointment. For a three week period she rang her GP practice on a daily basis but could not secure an appointment. She requested a home visit instead but again this was refused by the receptionist.

Nicki continued with life as best she could, but soon she found that her left foot had gone completely numb. She was extremely worried so she decided to telephone the practice manager of the GP surgery directly, by-passing the receptionist. After describing her symptoms to him, Nicki was offered an emergency appointment the next day.

At eh appointment, she was examined by a locum GP who noted that Nicki had absent reflexes in her left ankle. She suspected sciatica and referred her to the Community Orthopaedic Service, with an appointment made for the following month.

By the time this appointment came around, Nicki had increasingly severe leg and back pain. She had also developed pins and needles in her vagina, numbness around her buttocks and anus, a numb left foot which caused her to limp, urinary urgency with the loss of sensation, and the loss of sexual sensation.

During the appointment with the physiotherapist, Nicki was told that she may have a slipped disc which was bulging outwards, pressing upon her cauda equina nerves. This is a condition which requires emergency treatment, and an urgent MRI scan was carried out two days later.

However, Nicki did not see the consultant to discuss her scan results until 16th February - over one month later. He confirmed the presence of cauda equina syndrome due to a prolapsed disc. He said conservative treatment would not work and that surgery was required.

Patients with cauda equina syndrome should undergo surgery within hours or days of a diagnosis. Despite this, Nicki's operation was not carried out until March, another month later. By that stage she had developed urinary and faecal incontinence, in addition to her other ongoing symptoms.

Because of all the delays in diagnosis and treatment, Nicki's nerves were crushed by the prolapsed disc. They cannot now be repaired and she must face a lifetime of neurological complications. She remains in agonising pain, something which has forced her to give up work. She must self-catheterise due to her urinary incontinence and has no sensation in her left foot, perineum or vagina.

Nicki can no longer carry out everyday tasks such as cleaning, cooking and general chores. She must rely on her husband to do everything, putting tremendous strain upon their relationship. Nicki does not have the energy or ability to go far from home, meaning she does not socialise with her friends any more, something she previously enjoyed.

All this has made Nicki very depressed and she does not know what the future will bring. The mistakes of the GP and hospital have caused her considerable physical, emotional and financial harm, turning her life upside down. We helped Nicki pursue a claim for the damages she wrongfully incurred. She was awarded in excess of £85,000 compensation.

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

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