Failure to diagnose and treat discitis

Davies and Partners recently settled a claim for Mrs G who brought a claim against the University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham) following spinal fusion surgery.

The Claimant underwent a discography after which she suffered discitis which was not diagnosed by the Trust but instead she was advised to undergo spinal fusion surgery.

There were failings to provide prophylaxic antibiotic cover either pre or intra-operatively which would have avoided the infection.

The operation was not successful in resolving her pain completely, in fact very little benefit was obtained initially as the discitis went untreated for a period of 12 months during which time her discs auto fused.

Expert evidence considered that whilst the surgery was performed to an adequate standard, there had been auto fusion of the intra-vertebral discs as a result of the continuing and undiagnosed infection which should have been diagnosed earlier. Had it been diagnosed earlier Mrs G would have received suitable antibiotic therapy and spinal fusion would have been delayed until the infection had resolved.

The Claimant suffered excruciating pain for a period of 12 months until the infection resolved and caused significant damage to the L3/4 disc level which subsequently fused spontaneously, albeit with a loss of disc height at L3 which resulted in the pedicle compressing the exiting nerve root bilaterally causing ongoing pain.

The NHSLA admitted liability following a detailed letter of claim, however there was some dispute regarding causation in relation to the Claimant’s continuing symptoms.

Following negotiation, the Defendant accepted a period of causation and the settlement was negotiated in favour of the Claimant for her pain, suffering and loss of amenity. She had limited financial losses and she received the sum of £15,000.00 in settlement.

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