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Failure to diagnose relates to when a medical professional fails to correctly diagnose the patient’s condition.
The medical professional can be a General Practitioner or a Hospital doctor or nurse. Failing to diagnose a patient’s medical condition is one of the most common types of medical negligence actions.
Failing to diagnose will result in a delay for the patient in terms of the diagnosis being made and then a delay in the treatment starting; and sometimes the failure to diagnose the correct condition can mean that incorrect treatment is given or no treatment at all.
A failure to diagnose a condition can in some circumstances be very serious and life threatening. It can occur where there is a delay in diagnosing cancer. It can also happen in other circumstances for example:-
• Cauda Equine Syndrome
• Missed fractures
• Pressure sores
• Testicular torsions
The above are examples and there are many more.
Sometimes failing to make a diagnosis can mean that the patient suffers further damage and the illness can become more advanced and more serious.
Delayed Diagnosis Of Brain Tumour
We represented a client who sustained a traumatic perforation of his left tympanic membrane when he fell into a tree, whilst working as a Forester in February 2001. He was referred by his GP to the ENT clinic at Norfolk and Norwich Hospital where part of the twig was removed. Unfortunately his condition failed to settle and our client started to experience dizziness and whistling sounds in his ear. He was referred back to the ENT clinic and investigations and tests were carried out throughout 2001 and into 2002. On the basis of the results of these tests being normal our client was sent for vestibular rehabilitation on 21st November 2002.
In February 2009 our client was referred by his GP to the ENT department again because of persistent dizziness and episodes of falling. Whilst awaiting his appointment he developed paralysis of the right side of his face on 14.2.09. He was admitted as an emergency to Norwich and Norfolk Hospital and an MRI performed on 16.2.09 showed the presence of a lesion in the fourth ventricle. He was transferred to Addenbrookes Hospital on 1.3.09 and on 2.03.09 surgery was performed to remove the tumour through a posterior fossa craniotomy. Our client was discharged on 19.03.09 however whilst in hospital his consultant advised him that his tumour had been visible on the MRI scan which had been carried out during the tests done in 2002. Therefore the brain tumour could have been diagnosed seven years earlier!
Upon his discharge our client was noted to be suffering with visual problems, facial pain, headaches as well as neuropsychological problems. Following a routine scan on 8.08.11 our client was advised that the tumour had recurred, he was advised that his only option was radiotherapy. Our client underwent radiotherapy in early 2012 and an MRI scan showed that the tumours had shrunk slightly following treatment.
Unfortunately in late 2012 our client developed further symptomatic progression of the disease with evidence of spinal dissemination. This was treated with palliative radiotherapy to the lumbar region in November 2012, largely to relieve the pain which our client was in.
We pursued a claim against Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust for failing to diagnose the tumour following the MRI scan in 2002 as a consequence the tumour had progressed which affected our client’s condition and his prognosis.
We relied upon expert evidence from a number of experts including a Neurosurgeon, ENT Consultant and Consultant Radiologist. Proceedings were issued but we were able to negotiate a settlement for a six figure sum prior to the matter going to trial.
Here at Wilson Browne, the team have had a great deal of experience in dealing with a number of cases where there has been a failure to diagnose.