Delayed Diagnosis and a $1m Payout
A case that settled in the past few weeks involved a woman whose back surgery was delayed due to alleged missed diagnosis of cauda equina syndrome. By the time surgery went ahead to decompress her lower spine the nerve damage had become intractable and she has been left with persistent bilateral leg weakness, problems walking and both urinary and bowel incontinence issues.
Permanent Nerve Injury
When the lady first presented at a hospital she had all the classic hallmarks of cauda equina syndrome and severe spinal stenosis but a number of physicians at the hospital failed to make the diagnosis and she was discharged without an MRI being performed. The 37yr-old woman did have a CT scan but this was insufficient to diagnose cauda equina syndrome. A subsequent MRI scan by another physician precipitated an immediate scheduling of back surgery but the neurological damage was, by that time, permanent.
No Liability for Failed Back Surgery
The case settled out of court for $1 million but the defendant physician admitted no liability for missed diagnosis and was expected to testify that his care had been appropriate at the time and that the patient’s symptoms simply deteriorated after she was discharged. Although the money from this settled back surgery lawsuit will likely be something of a comfort to the patient the lifetime of neurological symptoms may have been prevented through earlier intervention and prompt back surgery it seems. Most cases of Failed Back Surgery Syndrome will never make it to court, however, in spite of promises by some injury lawyers touting for business. Cases are rarely clear cut but if there is evidence of medical malpractice, abnormal events during surgery or improper use of medical devices or techniques, patients may be able to get compensation and cover the costs of extended recovery and aftercare.