Visitor Question

Doctor Denies MRI Resulting in Emergency Surgery for Cauda Equina Syndrome…

Submitted By: Anonymous (USA)

I was having severe back pain and was seeing my Primary Care Physician. We did x-rays in October 2011 that were inconclusive. They said it was double sciatica and gave me medication. I relapsed 2 times in 2 months then woke up one day with numbness all the way to my heels and buttocks. I was in the most excruciating pain.

The PCP gave me a prednisone pack, ordered an MRI and said if I didn’t get significant relief by night I should go to the ER, as he thought I was having a back trauma. The prednisone helped a little and I faxed my MRI order to the hospital. They called saying my doctor did not put “STAT” on it. I said I knew she thought it was urgent and asked if they could please call her so I could be seen.

This started on a Monday and on Thursday I called our insurance company after not having calls returned from the PCP. They stated the MRI was never put in by the doctor and they needed to speak to her for a 2 minute peer-to-peer conference. She told them I no longer needed the MRI and to just go to the ER for anything further.

My PPO made a formal complaint on my behalf as did I that day. Two days later, unable to function I ended up in the ER, telling them my symptoms. Numbness in pelvis, buttocks and intolerable back pain. They gave me IV meds for pain control and had me walk to the x-ray, which they told me were in-conclusive). They sent me home with strong meds and told me to follow up with my PCP since there was no Neurosurgeon on duty!

I begged a Specialist on the phone the following week to do something and after describing my symptoms he ordered a STAT MRI. It showed I had a 87% protruding L4/5 & L/5S/1 vertebrae with all root nerves pinched and needed emergency surgery for Cauda equina syndrome (CES).

It has been 6 months post-op and I have severe foot drop, bowel and bladder problems, may need another fusion and still have a LOT of pain. Is this grounds for medical malpractice? If the doctor/insurance company had ordered the MRI like they should have I could have avoided a LOT of pain and it may have lessened the severity of my injuries. Thanks for any information you can give.

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.


Dear Anonymous,

Your claim is certainly complicated. There are any number of factors to be considered before medical malpractice can be established. Medical malpractice claims should always include representation by a skilled attorney with substantial experience in the field of medical malpractice. To know whether you have the basis of a med mal lawsuit contact one of those attorneys to review your case in more detail.

The generally accepted Standard Of Care for Doctors ascribed to by the American Medical Association requires a doctor to:

“Use the degree of skill and care of a reasonably competent practitioner in his field under same or similar circumstances.”

“To have the reasonable caliber of skill and knowledge that is generally possessed by surgeons and physicians in the locality where he or she practices.”

“Follow the same course of therapy that other doctors would have followed.”

If you are able to establish your pain was unnecessary and was a result of medical malpractice, you may be entitled to some form of monetary award. Your pain though would have had to be severe and prolonged.

Another concern is the Specialist who ordered an MRI without having met and examined you. It is very unusual for a physician to prescribe an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) examination without having examined a patient.

There seems to be no doubt the communication process between you and among the doctors and hospital broke down. The questions you will need to discuss with your attorney will be:

Whether your primary care physician’s actions caused the breakdown?

If those actions were not at a level of Standard of Care?

If not, whether the degree of your pain is compensable?

Learn more here: Healthcare Denials and Malpractice

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney.

Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call 888-972-0892.

We wish you the best with your claim,


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