Failure To Diagnose Fracture Of The Spine

Failure To Diagnose Fracture Of The Spine

Irwin Mitchell's medical negligence solicitors acted on behalf of a woman after she experienced negligent care which resulted in delayed diagnosis of a spinal fracture.

Amelia, 66, was already under the care of a chronic pain clinic for pre-existing back problems when she suffered a fall whilst getting out of the bath. She went to her local Accident and Emergency department (A&E) and was examined by lifting her legs, pushing on her feet and standing. She found all these movements painful and was given a painkiller. She was discharged home in less than 45 minutes with no x-rays taken and no follow-up care mentioned.

Over the following weeks, Amelia suffered painful back spasms. She visited her GP who prescribed strong painkillers.

Nearly a month later Amelia’s condition deteriorated as she experienced sweats, vomiting and hallucinations. She was again taken to A&E and on examination, it was recorded that she had tenderness in the low lumbar region with restricted movements. Medical staff told her that she was suffering from an infection and discharged her with painkillers but without taking any x-rays.

A few weeks passed and Amelia attended the pain clinic and was referred for an MRI scan. She was eventually diagnosed with a superior endplate fracture of the L1, against the background of widespread degenerative changes in the rest of her lumbar spine. She was admitted immediately and an L1 vertebroplasty was performed the following day.

We argued that the hospital staff breached their duty: on both trips to A&E hospital staff didn't consult Amelia’s medical notes properly, including her pain score chart. Possible injuries weren't investigated by taking images of the area and as such the fracture had remained unnoticed. If doctors had performed a scan, they would have identified the fracture and Amelia would have avoided extreme pain for three months.

With our help, the case was settled and Amelia received £9,500 for her pain and suffering. This amount also accounted for her past loss of earnings and the cost of the provision of miscellaneous services and care.

Commenting on the case, Peter Cutler said: “Our investigation helped to highlight concerns about serious failings in NHS Accident and Emergency departments.

“As a result of her claim, Amelia was reassured that lessons had been learned so that other patients wouldn’t have to suffer similar experiences to what she went through.”

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