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Settlement of £75,000 following poorly executed lumbar puncture

A woman left in constant pain after a spinal injury has secured compensation

Posted on 15 February 2016

A young woman, known only as T, has received £75,000 after repeatedly undergoing lumbar puncture procedures on the base of her spine.  T has been left with chronic pain syndrome, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following her experience.

T was a healthy, active and successful young woman in her 30s who enjoyed sport and adventure holidays.

In January 2010, she returned from a holiday travelling around Indonesia. During the last few days of her holiday, and when she returned to the UK, she developed symptoms suggestive of a tropical illness.

She attended Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich, where she underwent a diagnostic lumbar puncture (DLP). This procedure involves a needle being inserted into the lower part of the spine to extract samples of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) for analysis.

T displayed symptoms of photophobia, aching joints and limbs and high temperature which improved whilst on five days of antibiotics and pain relief.

She was subsequently discharged with what she described as mild sensitivity to light and a slight aching sensation in her joints and limbs. However, two weeks later, the symptoms had returned and T returned to A&E.

She was initially turned away, but because of the severity of her symptoms her partner took her back to the hospital, where she was admitted.  

During this admission two more diagnostic lumbar punctures were carried out, both by two very junior doctors.

This was in accordance with the common practice in the NHS of “see one, do one, show one.”

T was unaware that these doctors were so inexperienced, and therefore tolerated the extreme pain she suffered while the procedure was repeated, when no CSF sample was obtained.

The junior doctors had to stop trying to extract a CSF sample.  The next day a consultant performed the procedure and obtained a sample.

T then suffered a CSF leak which went undiagnosed and untreated.  

Whilst also suffering the symptoms of her undiagnosed viral illness,  T remained in hospital for approximately one month, lying flat, until she was able to start walking again, albeit slowly and with a  slight stoop for another month.

T continues to have pain around the lumbar puncture site, which has affected her mobility and her enjoyment of life.

Leigh Day medical negligence solicitor Anna Brothers acted for T in her claim against the hospital trust.  Anna secured a settlement of £75,000.00 for T which will allow her to recoup her losses as a result of her injuries, and also arrange for pain management treatment.