Delay of Spinal Surgery Lawsuit: $1 Million

2011 Medical Malpractice Trial Report

Delay in Diagnosis of Cauda Equina Syndrome in 37-year-old woman causes permanent neurological injuries

The plaintiff is a 37-year-old woman who was diagnosed with cauda equina syndrome in May 2006. The plaintiff’s medical history included a long history of back pain, including advanced degenerative disc disease, and significant obesity. The plaintiff was admitted to the hospital under the care of the defendant physician after presenting with complaints of back pain, numbness, tingling, pain, burning, and weakness of her legs, and difficulty urinating.

The plaintiffs’ experts were expected to testify that these were signs and symptoms of cauda equina syndrome, a neurological emergency which, when left untreated, will result in permanent neurological injury. The plaintiff remained hospitalized for four (4) days, during which time a number of physicians evaluated her but no diagnosis was determined. During this time, the defendant physician ordered a CT of the spine; however, the scan was nondiagnostic. At no time during the hospitalization did the defendant physician arrange for an MRI of the plaintiff’s spine to further evaluate her complaints. On day four of her hospitalization, the defendant physician discharged the plaintiff home without a definitive diagnosis.

As an outpatient, the plaintiff presented to another physician who ordered an MRI of her back. The MRI revealed cauda equina syndrome and the plaintiff underwent immediate spinal surgery; however, her condition was irreversible by that time. Today, she continues to live with bilateral leg weakness, gait disturbance, and urinary and bowel difficulty.

The plaintiffs’ experts were prepared to testify that the defendant physician was negligent when he failed to obtain an MRI of the plaintiff’s spine and when he failed to transfer her to a facility with a spine surgeon who could properly treat the plaintiff’s condition. Furthermore, the plaintiffs’ experts were expected to testify that had the plaintiff’s cauda equina syndrome been timely diagnosed and treated with surgery, then more likely than not her neurological function would have been restored and she would not have suffered the permanent neurological injuries with which she lives today.

The defendant was expected to claim that the plaintiff’s symptoms progressed after she was discharged from the hospital and that his care was reasonable and appropriate at the time. The matter settled prior to trial for $1,000,000.00. (Bristol Superior Court)

Lubin & Meyer attorneys represented the plaintiff in this lawsuit.

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