During a three month period client experienced a dramatic escalation of low back pain. Client also experienced fever, chills and lower extremity radiculopathy. Client sought treatment through his HMO on numerous occasions and was diagnosed with a degenerative lumbar condition. Anti-inflammatories were prescribed.
Client’s low back pain continued and client then began experiencing significant breathing problems. He was ultimately hospitalized for what was suspected to be pneumonia and lumbar degeneration.
During client’s hospitalization, client’s HMO primary care physician arranged for a rheumatologist consult to assess client’s low back pain. After taking a history, performing a physical examination and reviewing client’s lab data and radiology films, the rheumatologist assessed client as likely suffering from either rheumatologic disease or a lumbar spine infection.
Infection in the spine is well known to be an urgent care condition. If a spinal infection is not promptly diagnosed and treated, the patient is at risk of paralysis and even death. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is the test of choice to confirm a spinal infection.
Despite the rheumatologist’s suspicion of a possible spinal infection, no follow up confirmation (by MRI) was ordered and client was released from the hospital without any further investigation or treatment devoted to the infection in his spine. Client’s spinal infection was then left untreated for more than 30 days despite client’s numerous telephone calls and doctor visits relating to his back pain. Eventually, client became paralyzed from the neck down when the infection spread throughout his spine and a spinal epidural abscess invaded and damaged client’s spinal cord at C6-7.
Client was hospitalized again after the onset of paralysis. An MRI confirmed massive spinal infection. Client then underwent spinal surgery and antibiotic therapy to clear the infection. Thereafter client underwent a lengthy course of physical therapy to regain function in his arms and legs. Client eventually reacquired partial use of his arms and legs. (Confidential Settlement)