Negligence can occur though a complication in surgery where the treatment is carried out close to the spine or spinal cord e.g. an epidural inserted incorrectly could cause a spinal injury or paralysis or a severing of the spinal components above during routine surgery.
It could also occur through failure to recognise the seriousness of the situation resulting in a delay in diagnosis e.g. if a tumour, abscess or an infection was left untreated it could worsen the outcome and lead to Cauda Equina Syndrome or Paralysis.
The spine is made up of:
- the spinal cord made up of 31 pairs of nerves that connect the spinal cord to the areas of the body
- the bones that protect the spinal cord (called vertebrae) made up of 7 in the neck (Cervical), 12 in the chest (thoracic) and 5 in the lower back (lumbar)
- the discs of tissue between the vertebrae
- the surrounding muscles
- and the nerves which branch off it, to carry messages between the brain and the rest of the body in the form of high-speed electric pulses.
Spinal Cord Injury
A spinal cord injury (SCI) is when the spinal cord is damaged and so its function is damaged. The spinal cord does not have the ability to repair itself and damage can be caused by trauma, loss of bloody supply or compressions from a tumour or infection. This damage can be temporary or permanent. The symptoms are largely dependent on the extent of the damage and vary widely but do include pain or numbness to paralysis to incontinence.
Early treatment is vital to achieve a possible recovery from a SCI. Treatment starts with stabilisation of the spine to try and prevent any further damage but may include bed-rest or even surgery. Spinal Cord Injuries usually require long term physical and occupational therapy but new research is being carried out for treatment including stem cell implantation, engineered materials for tissue support and wearable robotic exoskeletons.
SCI’s can be complete or incomplete. In a complete SCI there is a complete loss of sensation and function below the level of the injury. In an incomplete SCI some function remains.
Central Cord Sydrome
Central Cord Syndrome is the most common form of cervical SCI and is usually a loss of motion and sensation in the arms and hands. This is more common in people over 50 due to osteoarthritis causing weakness to the vertebrae in the neck region.
Cauda Equina Syndrome
Cauda equina syndrome can lead to life changing complications if not diagnosed early enough, find out more here.
This is when a person loses the ability to move one or more of the muscles in the body and is most often caused by damage to the spinal cord.
If only one limb is affected this is called Monoplegia. This can be associated with Cerebral Palsy (see link below) and occurs when the motor functions of the affected limb are damaged. Paraplegia is when the motor or sensory functions of the lower limbs are affected. It is usually the thoracic, lumbar or sacral area of the spine which is damaged. Tetraplegia (or Quadraplegia) is when all four limbs and the torso are affected. In this case the damage is done to the discs C1-C7 in the cervical area. Hemiplegia (or Hemiparesis) is, its most severe form, when half of the body is completely paralysed
Autonomic Dysreflexia (AD)
AD is a very serious life threatening condition and is when the injury usually occurs above the T6 spinal cord level. Symptoms usually start with extremely high blood pressure, intense headaches, profuse sweating, goosebumps, nasal stuffiness, facial erythema, apprehension and blurred visions. Death is rare but it can cause strokes, retinal haemorrhage or pulmonary odema if left untreated which can be severe.
Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
Multiple Sclerosis is when the insulating covers of the nerve cells in the spinal cord and brain become damaged. This affects the ability of parts of the nervous system to communicate and results in a wide range of signs and symptoms, including double vision, muscle weakness, trouble with sensation or trouble with co-ordination. Sufferers may notice isolated attacks which gradually over time build up as the disease advances. There is currently no known cure for MS but treatments can be used to try and prevent future attacks or improve functions after an attack.
How can we help?
Here at Negligence Claimline our friendly team are here to help you get the support you need. Working with a panel of specialist medical negligence solicitors, we can assist you with your potential claim.
Sometimes an apology is enough, but in other cases compensation will be the only solution to help you get your life back on track.
Our service, putting you in contact with one of our expert panel members, is free and you are not obliged to take the advice the solicitor gives you, or to progress your claim any further if you do not wish.
Can I sue the NHS?
The NHS was created so that good healthcare should be available to all, and it is one of the country’s proudest achievements. However, if something goes wrong during your treatment you deserve answers and, where necessary, financial compensation.
We do not treat your claim lightly. The treatment you consider negligent must be considered unreasonable, irresponsible, and harmful.
However, when someone suffers an injury that impacts their live, or that of a loved one, then it is vital that the NHS has the procedures in place to both compensate the patient and learn from their mistakes.
Find out more about negligence in our Advice Centre
If you believe that you, or a loved one, have suffered an injury as a result of medical or clinical negligence then call our friendly team on 0330 355 9210 where they will take some details and pass them to a team of specialist solicitors.