Cervical Abscess & Delayed Diagnosis = Medical Malpractice
In Delaware county, Pennsylvania, a jury awarded a paralyzed man and his wife $12.5 million in a delayed diagnosis case. The plaintiff in the case went to Delaware County Memorial Hospital complaining of pain in his neck and tingling in his arm. The doctors ordered an MRI and he was diagnosed as having no abscess. Unfortunately, the victim did have a cervical abscess and he required emergency surgery the next day.
What is a Cervical Abscess?
A cervical or spinal cord abscess is a very serious and rare condition involving an infection. If left untreated these abscesses can cause permanent damage to the spinal cord. A common symptom of this problem is parasthesia, otherwise known as numbness or tingling of the skin, which the plaintiff seems to have had in this case.
Diagnosing an Abscess
In order to diagnose a spinal cord abscess doctors generally begin with a blood test. They are looking for an elevated c-reactive protein or other results that suggest an infection. If there are signs of a problem, doctors will then perform other tests. Those tests might include a CT scan of the spinal cord, an MRI (as was performed in this case) or even a lumbar puncture (spinal tap) to look for infection. Given the lawsuit, it is likely that the alleged malpractice involved failure on the part of the radiologist to read the MRI properly, which might have delayed diagnosis of the abscess. The doctors in the case claim that they “aggressively treated and attended to [the patient].” They did not believe the outcome would have been any different had his diagnosis been immediate.
A Delay Doesn’t Have to be Long
Most of the time, if a delayed diagnosis is only a day or a few hours, the amount of damage will be minor or none at all. But in the case of a serious abscess, such as apparently occurred in this case, any time lost can result in substantial damage to the patient. These infections must be treated immediately and they must be treated aggressively. The accusation in this case is that the doctors would have been able to stop the damage to the plaintiff’s spinal cord had they diagnosed and treated him immediately. Unfortunately, the plaintiff became paralyzed in both his arms and legs. He had to be hospitalized many times and lost many functions in his body.