December 09, 2022
Whatever the condition or injury, a diagnosis at the earliest opportunity will often result in a better outcome. A missed, or delayed diagnosis may limit the treatment options or result in the need for more complicated and invasive treatments.
In recent years there have been a number of advertising campaigns making us aware of the early symptoms of cancer. These campaigns are designed to encourage us to seek advice if any of these symptoms arise. They explain that regular tests such as smear tests and prostate examination are invaluable in diagnosing and treating cancer at an early stage.
There are many different types of cancer, all with varying levels of aggression, meaning that some forms of cancer are relatively slow in developing or growing, whereas other more aggressive types grow and develop quickly, making it imperative that they are diagnosed and treated at the earliest opportunity.
Cancers are generally graded in stages 1-4. Cancer that is diagnosed at stage 1 is much more likely to be treatable and may be treated with chemotherapy without the need for surgery. Once a cancer reaches stage 4 it is much more difficult to treat and may at that stage be sadly untreatable. Cancer becomes much harder to treat if metastasis has occurred. Metastasis is when the tumour has reached a stage that causes the cancer to spread to other parts of the body. Depending on the type of cancer this will usually be when the cancer has reached stage 4.
Treatments for cancer are always improving. Many types of cancer can now be successfully treated if diagnosed and treated at the earliest opportunity, so it is vital that you seek advice as quickly as possible if you experience any unusual symptoms.
Accident and Emergency departments around the country will generally always have someone waiting to be seen with an orthopaedic injury. The term orthopaedic covers injuries relating to bones or muscles. These include fractured bones, dislocations, and torn ligaments among others.
In the majority of cases, a fractured bone will be identified and diagnosed with an X-ray. Once diagnosed, a fracture may be treated by putting the injured limb into a cast. This will prevent movement of the bone, allowing it to heal. In the event that it is a displaced fracture, meaning that the injury has left the two segments of bone out of line, then surgery may be required to re-align the bone before then setting it, allowing it to heal.
In the event that a fracture is diagnosed and treated as being un-displaced, when in fact it is displaced, it may then become mal-united. This is when the bone heals out of line and is left deformed. This can cause issues with arthritis and other conditions later in life, but may also result in loss of mobility. A mal-united fracture will often require surgery to essentially re-break the bone and then reset it. This will often be much more invasive surgery and involve an extended recovery time than if it was diagnosed correctly and surgery undertaken earlier.
In the event that a fractured bone goes completely undiagnosed, either by being missed on an X-ray or no X-ray being taken, the outcome can be severe. Once diagnosed, a broken a leg or other lower limb fracture will be treated in part by the patient being advised not to weight bear. They will be given crutches and advised not to put any weight on the injured limb. This will allow the fracture to heal and ensure it is not mal-united. If the fracture is not diagnosed and the patient continues to weight bear, the fracture can become displaced or fail to heal completely. This may result in one or more invasive surgical procedures being required, prolonged recovery times, or in very severe cases, amputation.
Not all orthopaedic injuries can be identified by way of an X-ray. Tendon or muscle injuries will not show up on an X-ray. Injuries such as these will generally require an MRI or Ultrasound scan (USS) to identify the torn or ruptured tendon. A torn or ruptured tendon will present similar symptoms to soft tissue injuries or sprains, that would generally be treated with rest and painkillers, whereas torn or ruptured tendons will often require surgery. It would not be practical to offer a USS or MRI scan to every patient presenting with these symptoms, so the need for a scan will be determined by the medical professional carrying out a detailed examination to establish whether the specific symptoms of a torn or ruptured tendon are present that makes a more severe injury more likely than a soft tissue injury or sprain. In some cases, an inadequate examination can result in the patient being discharged without undergoing a scan and not receiving treatment.
A common tendon injury is an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury. This is an injury to the knee that can occur as a result of a sudden pivoting manoeuvre that often happens during sporting activities. The ACL is a key ligament that stabilises the knee. There are also other ligaments in the knee known as collateral ligaments. These include the medial compartment ligament (MCL) and the lateral collateral (LCL). All the tendons work together to support the knee and allow movement. If one these ligaments becomes torn or ruptured and is not diagnosed, it can increase the strain on the other ligaments causing them to also rupture or tear. This will often result in the knee requiring reconstruction surgery. If diagnosed early, a torn ligament may be treated by resting it by non-weight bearing or by less invasive surgery to repair the injured tendon.
Another tendon injury that can occur is a torn or ruptured biceps. This can occur from heavy or awkward lifting. The patient will often hear a snap at the time the rupture occurs. Following this the biceps will tense into a painful ball. This is known as a “Popeye deformity.” When a patient attends Accident and Emergency with a possible inured bicep, the medical professional will ask questions to ascertain how the injury occurred. They will also examine the bicep to look for any signs of a “Popeye deformity”. They will use this combined information to decide whether a scan should be taken. If diagnosed, torn biceps can be repaired with surgery, but there is a limited window of time that this surgery can be carried out. The longer it is left, the less successful the recovery will be, resulting in loss of strength and movement. If diagnosed later than 12 months after the injury it may become too late to repair at all.
If you believe you have suffered a delayed or missed diagnosis, you may be able to bring a Clinical Negligence claim. This may include a claim for loss of earnings as a result of a prolonged recovery period and a claim for the cost of any further treatment that is required as well as compensation for any additional pain and suffering you experience as a result of the delay in diagnosis.
At Spencer’s Solicitors, we have vast experience in dealing with cases of delayed diagnosis in various settings, not limited to cancer or orthopaedic cases.
Posted in: Personal Injury