$1,012,500 Settlement Obtained for Delayed Diagnosis of Emergency Back Condition

Attorneys Joseph Manna and Lynn Bochenek recently obtained a $1,012,500 settlement in a medical malpractice case for a man who suffered injuries due to the failures of a hospital and chiropractor to diagnosis and treat cauda equina syndrome (CES).

Cauda Equina Syndrome (CES)

CES is a condition that occurs when the bundle of nerves below the end of the spinal cord, known as the cauda equina, is damaged. Signs and symptoms may include low back pain, pain that radiates down the leg, numbness around the anus, inner thighs and groin, and loss of bowel or bladder control. A hallmark sign of CES is saddle anesthesia, which is numbness and tingling in the areas that come in contact with a saddle if one were riding a horse.

The cause of CES is usually a severely herniated disc in the low back. Other causes can include spinal stenosis, cancer, trauma, epidural abscess, and epidural hematoma. The diagnosis of CES is suspected based on symptoms and confirmed by medical imaging such as MRI or CT scan.

CES is generally treated with emergency spine surgery. Without prompt surgical treatment, a patient can develop permanent bladder and bowel problems and sexual dysfunction as well as mobility problems.

Chiropractor Recognizes Symptoms of CES

In this case, the patient complained of severe back pain radiating to his leg with numbness in his groin. He went to see his chiropractor, who testified that he could see “a city block away” that his patient had CES.

Because it is an emergency, and to avoid dangerous treatment delays, chiropractors must send CES patients to an emergency room immediately and also contact or communicate with the emergency room personnel that they are referring such a patient for treatment. The purpose of this communication is to avoid misdiagnosis in an ER and to expedite emergency surgery.

Failure to Communicate CES Diagnosis

Unfortunately, the chiropractor in this case failed to communicate his CES diagnosis to the patient and the ER. Although the patient went to an ER, providers there did not recognize that the patient had CES and they released him on pain medications thinking he had benign low back pain

Consequences of Emergency Room Misdiagnosis

The patient went home, as instructed, and tried to rest. The next morning, he woke up paralyzed and incontinent. He was rushed to a different hospital where doctors performed emergency spine surgery. Although they were able to restore movement to his legs, the delays caused the man to develop permanent bowel and bladder problems, mobility problems and sexual dysfunction.

Settlement Obtained for Client

Insurers for the chiropractor agreed to pay 30% of the $1,012,500 settlement with the hospital’s insurance company paying the balance of $700,000. The client intends to utilize the funds to cope with his mobility disability including the purchase of non-opioid pain relievers, a ranch style home and a mobility scooter.

For More Information

Joseph Manna and Lynn Bochenek are both Partners at Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria LLP. They concentrate their practice in patient advocacy and representing clients severely injured by medical malpractice.