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Spinal hematoma causing loss of leg function

Multi-million dollar settlement for a 64-year-old Blair County man who became paralyzed as a result of a delay in diagnosing and removing a hematoma which was pressing on his spinal cord. This man came to the emergency room with complaints of sudden pain in his back and right flank. An MRI of the spine was done, but the radiologist who read it "missed" the hematoma which should have been visible. The man was admitted to the hospital for further investigation. At that time, he was not yet paralyzed. However several hours later he started to complain that he was having trouble moving one of his legs, a critical sign that should have triggered another immediate MRI. Unfortunately, that did not happen. Instead, more than 12 hours went by before another MRI was ordered and at that point the patient was having trouble moving both legs. The hospital staff eventually discovered the hematoma pressing on the cord and arranged surgery to remove it, but by that time the man had lost permanent function in his legs.

A spinal hematoma is simply a collection of blood that can form for a variety of reasons. When a hematoma forms near the spinal cord, it can cause neurologic damage if it starts to press on the cord for a long period of time without being removed. That is what happened in this case. Our argument against the hospital was that they should have discovered and removed the hematoma much sooner, and certainly before the patient lost function in his legs.

The damages we claimed included income loss from the modest job the patient had and also "life care costs" for all of the special needs that the man had, primarily the need for attendant care at home, i.e., people to help him around the house with bathing, dressing and the like. In addition, our claim included damages for the basic fact that he would now be confined to a wheelchair for the remainder of his life.

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