The Plaintiff attended her GP with concerns about numbness she was feeling on the right side of her saddle area. She was also complaining of sciatic pain running up and down her leg and was concerned that she may be developing cauda equina syndrome. The Plaintiff’s GP carried out a full examination and wrote a letter of referral to the emergency department of the local hospital querying a possible diagnosis of cauda equina syndrome and highlighting her symptoms as lower back pain, numbness, reduced sensation in the perianal area together with possible slight reduced power in her right upper leg. On arrival at the emergency department of the hospital, the Plaintiff was examined by the Emergency Registrar on duty. He noted the urgent GP referral and that the Plaintiff had a long standing history of sciatica. In a clinical entry made by the Emergency Department Registrar it was recorded that the Plaintiff was suffering from “impaired sensation to right saddle area to both coarse and fine touch” and he formed the impression that there was sciatica/compression with possible impending cauda equina. Full blood tests were requested together with surgical review and a plain x-ray.
A doctor from the orthopaedic team then carried out an examination of the Plaintiff and recorded that there were no signs of cauda equina syndrome developing and the Plaintiff was discharged with a prescription for analgesics and advised to return to the Emergency Department should any relevant symptoms develop in the future.
Approximately a week later the Plaintiff returned to the emergency department as the numbness and pain she had been suffering had deteriorated over the intervening period of time. She was again examined by the same doctor in the emergency department who had requested a surgical consultation previously and her care was taken over by the Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon on duty. She was referred for an urgent MRI scan following which she was immediately take to theatre and underwent an emergency discectomy.
Unfortunately, the Plaintiff has been left with severe nerve damage as a result of the delay in diagnosis of her cauda equina syndrome. The Plaintiff suffers from right side foot drop and absent bladder sensation which has left her requiring self-catheterisation three to four times a day for the rest of her life.
The Plaintiff instructed Augustus Cullen Law Solicitors to investigate the standard of care she received from the hospital. We obtained a supportive expert report from a Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon which criticised the standard of care our client received at the emergency department following her review by the junior doctor from the orthopaedic team. The expert evidence stated that she should have been admitted when she first presented with her symptoms and further, had this been done, the Plaintiff would have undergone the necessary emergency surgery and she would have avoided her injuries which are unfortunately permanent.
Proceedings were issued against the hospital and an admission of liability was forthcoming at a relatively early stage. Settlement negotiations were held shortly after the matter was set down for trial and a settlement in the sum of €325,000 together with the Plaintiff’s legal costs was agreed between the parties.
For further information please contact Jamie Hart, Partner in our Medical Negligence Department.
24 January 2018