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22 October 2022 | Case Study | Article by Lesley Herbertson

Man suffers brain damage following late diagnosis of brain abscess

Peter, a previously fit and healthy dad, suffered a brain abscess in 2009. Due to delays in diagnosing the abscess and commencing treatment he suffered an avoidable brain injury.

In October 2009, Peter visited his GP as he had been suffering from a severe headache for the past five days and was struggling with sensitivity to light. His GP thought the headache was related to a recent cold and advised Peter to take over the counter pain killers. A few days later Peter’s headache worsened and he went to his local A&E at Tameside General Hospital. He was still suffering with sensitivity to light and whilst this was noted by the triage nurse, it was not noted by the doctor who examined Peter. The doctor simply diagnosed Peter with sinusitis and discharged him home.

Around a week later Peter returned to his GP as his symptoms had not improved, but he was reassured and sent home. He went back to his GP a week after that with similar symptoms but he was also showing signs of confusion. His GP was very concerned and arranged for Peter to be admitted back to Tameside via the medical assessment unit (MAU). Whilst on the MAU Peter was reviewed during the afternoon ward round and a plan was made for him to undergo a CT head scan. Despite his symptoms Peter was not scanned until 9.30pm that evening. The scan confirmed Peter had a right frontal intracerebral abscess and a right subdural empyema.

Peter was transferred to the specialist neurological team at team at Salford Royal Infirmary just before midnight, almost 11 hours after he had first arrived in hospital on the second occasion. He was taken to theatre the following day for a right frontal craniotomy for evacuation of the subdural empyema and drainage of the intracerebral abscess.

We alleged, on Peter’s behalf, that the doctor who examined him when he first attended at A&E failed to recognise that Peter was very sensitive to light and failed to consider that he might be suffering from a neurosurgical condition which would account for all of his symptoms. We further alleged that Peter ought to have been admitted to hospital on that first occasion and if he had, he would have undergone a CT scan which would have confirmed the presence of the abscess at that point in time and he could have received treatment almost 2 weeks earlier than he did.

As a result of the delay in identifying and treating Peter’s abscess he has been left with brain damage and suffers seizures, as well as cognitive deficit and poor memory. He requires assistance with almost all aspects of daily living and can no longer care for and look after his son as he previously did. Peter’s personality has also changed and can now be aggressive towards his wife.

After several years, Lesley Herbertson, Partner in the clinical negligence team at Hugh James was able to secure a settlement on Peter’s behalf on the basis that he would recover 75% of the total value of his claim. Lesley was able to secure £4.275 million (£5.7 million on a full liability basis) compensation for Peter to be paid partly as a lump sum up front and partly as annual payments to ensure that he will be able to pay for his care for the rest of his life.

Lesley comments:

Peter was a much loved dad and husband who provided both his wife and son with love, care and support whenever they needed it. However, as a result of the delay in diagnosing his abscess he went from being a carer to needing to be cared for, placing an massive strain on his family, in particular his wife. Whilst this settlement cannot give Peter’s family the old Peter back, it means that they have been able to move to a property which is more suitable for them as a family and Peter can pay for the care and support he requires privately for the rest of his life. Peter and his family now have the security they desperately wanted, to know that he will always be looked after and safe and can start to try and get back to being a family again.

The names and identifying details of the client have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals involved.

Author bio

Lesley Herbertson is a Partner at Hugh James and a leading medical negligence solicitor with over 30 years’ experience in dealing with catastrophic and serious injury medical negligence cases.

Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.

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