Delay in diagnosing spinal infection

Posted by Gemma Osgood on

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Mrs Y was admitted to her local hospital with abdominal pain and was diagnosed with probable gallstones. She was discharged home but returned to hospital as the pain did not improve. A CT scan was performed but did not find the cause of her pain. Mrs Y was sent home and then readmitted to hospital with back pain.

Blood tests indicated that Mrs Y was suffering from an infection but this was not investigated.  An orthopaedic surgeon reviewed Mrs Y and suggested that an MRI scan of the spine should be performed as the pain could have been related to Mrs Y's back, however, there was a three week delay in undertaking the MRI scan. In that time Mrs Y began to complain of increasing back pain and weakness and numbness to her legs. When an MRI scan was eventually performed it showed that Mrs Y had a significant spinal infection.  As a result, she suffered spinal cord compression and required surgery.

Mrs Y was left with significant disabilities, including the inability to fully evacuate her bowels. She continues to have constant pain in her back and legs. She has very little function in her left leg and can only walk short distances indoors. She suffers from regular falls. Outside she is dependent on a wheelchair and needs assistance from someone else to push her. She is reliant on others for her care and required a wheelchair accessible home. A suitable property was identified and purchased using an interim payment from the defendant, and adaptations were made to make the property suitable to meet Mrs Y's needs.

Mrs Y contacted BL Claims Solicitors as specialist clinical negligence solicitors. We investigated the case and sent a formal Letter of Claim to the Trust involved.  Our case was that the Trust negligently delayed obtaining an MRI scan, resulting in a delay in diagnosis of the infection. In addition, the spinal infection had been present on the CT scan but had been missed.  Had the scan been performed earlier, or the CT scan been interpreted properly, she would have received antibiotics and the infection would not have had the catastrophic results that it did.  Although liability was admitted at an early stage in the case, causation remained in issue for some time, and our efforts to negotiate a settlement were rejected by the defendant and the case was listed for trial in the High Court. 

The claim settled just three weeks before trial, and Mrs Y accepted £1.3 million in full and final settlement of her claim.

Gemma Osgood worked with barristers Harry Trusted and Will Young from Outer Temple Chambers to successfully conclude the matter. 

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About the Author

Gemma is a Senior Associate in our Clinical Negligence team with extensive experience in all areas of medical negligence claims.

Gemma Osgood
Email Gemma
023 8085 7248

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