After a two-week trial this month, a Pennsylvania jury awarded more than $12 million to a 53 year-old man who became paralyzed after emergency room physicians delayed in recognizing and treating his spinal epidural abscess. A copy of the article regarding the case can be found here. According to the National Institute of Health, a spinal epidural abscess is defined as a rare disorder caused by infection in the area between the bones of the spine and the membranes covering the spinal cord. Although not always able to be determined, the source is often bacteria that spread from other infections in the body, such as a urinary tract infection.
In the Pennsylvania case, the patient presented to Delaware County Memorial Hospital in June of 2011 complaining of neck pain and tingling in his left arm. His symptoms worsened overnight; he developed a fever, was having difficulty walking and was unable to urinate. These are classic symptoms of an infectious process in the spine. An infectious disease specialist was appropriately consulted the following day and a cervical epidural abscess in the neck was suspected. The infectious disease specialist ordered a stat (immediate) MRI but, unfortunately, the hospital Radiologist incorrectly interpreted the results as showing no signs of abscess or spinal cord compression. Accordingly, transfer to a facility with the proper capabilities to care for this patient was delayed an additional day and, in the meantime, his condition continued to deteriorate. By the time the accuracy of the radiologist’s reading of the stat MRI was questioned, the damage done to the patient’s spinal cord had become irreversible.
As a result of the delay in diagnosis and treatment, the patient became paralyzed in the arms and legs, lost bowel and bladder control as well as sexual function. He is no longer able to complete the most mundane of daily tasks – such as clothing, feeding or washing himself – without substantial assistance from his wife and others. Of course, he also is no longer able to work. The verdict included a $500,000 award to the patient’s wife for loss of consortium.
Cases such as the one described above are fact-intensive and often require qualified, credible experts to combat the defense’s argument that faster treatment would not have changed the outcome.
We have successfully resolved a number of medical malpractice cases involving the failure to timely recognize and treat infections. If you or a loved one believes you were the victim of such a medical mistake, call our experienced medical malpractice attorneys for a free consultation at (410) 385-2225.