On July 15, 2016, an Indiana judge awarded an Indiana couple a total of $4.7 million following a bench trial in April 2016, finding that the husband’s treating physician breached the standard of care by failing to diagnose the husband’s infection that resulted in cauda equina syndrome that led to him becoming paralyzed below the waist. The judge’s award included $4.25 million for the harm suffered by the husband and $450,000 for the wife’s loss of consortium claim.
The plaintiffs elected to have their Indiana medical malpractice case tried before a judge instead of an Indiana medical malpractice jury after a medical review panel determined that the defendant physician had not breached the standard of care (the original Indiana medical malpractice claim was filed in June 2011). The trial judge determined that the husband had suffered a catastrophic injury.
The Alleged Underlying Facts
The husband had injured himself at work in March 2005 and sought medical care at a local urgent care center, where he was given an injection, provided a prescription for pain, and told to return to work. He later returned to the urgent care center because his condition deteriorated to the point where he could hardly walk. The defendant physician treated the man during his second visit to the urgent care center during which the defendant prescribed more pain medication and returned the man back to work despite his symptoms.
The man’s medical condition was not properly diagnosed until he was seen in a local hospital emergency department but by that time he had suffered significant, irreversible permanent injury.
What Is Cauda Equina Syndrome?
The collection of nerves at the end of the spinal cord (the spinal cord ends at the upper portion of the lumbar spine) is known as the cauda equina because it resembles a horse’s tail. The cauda equina is the continuation of these nerve roots in the lumbar region that send and receive messages to and from the lower limbs and pelvic organs.
According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, cauda equina syndrome (“CES”) occurs when the nerve roots of the cauda equina are compressed and disrupt motor and sensory function to the lower extremities and bladder. Patients with CES are often admitted to the hospital as a medical emergency. CES most commonly results from a massive herniated disc in the lumbar region.
The red flag symptoms of CES include severe low back pain; motor weakness, sensory loss, or pain in one, or more commonly, both legs; saddle anesthesia (unable to feel anything in the body areas that sit on a saddle); recent onset of bladder dysfunction (such as urinary retention or incontinence); recent onset of bowel incontinence; sensory abnormalities in the bladder or rectum; recent onset of sexual dysfunction; and/or a loss of reflexes in the extremities.
Once the diagnosis of CES is made, and the etiology established, urgent surgery is usually the treatment of choice, with the goal being to reverse the symptoms of neural dysfunction. Prompt surgery is the best treatment for patients with CES: surgery within 48 hours after the onset of CES provides a significant advantage in improving sensory and motor deficits as well as urinary and rectal function. Left untreated, CES can result in permanent paralysis and incontinence.
If you or a loved one suffered harm due to misdiagnosed cauda equina syndrome in the United States, you should promptly find a medical malpractice lawyer in your state who may investigate your cauda equina syndrome malpractice claim for you and represent you in a cauda equina syndrome case, if appropriate.
Visit our website to be connected with local medical malpractice attorneys who may assist you with your possible medical malpractice claim, or call us toll-free in the United States at 800-295-3959.
Turn to us when you don’t know where to turn.