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Sudden and Severe Back Pain Combined with Anticoagulation Medication Should Not be Dismissed

Recently, McKeen & Associates attorneys Brian McKeen and Kenneth Lee reached a settlement in the amount of $600,000 for a client who received negligent medical care over the course of three trips in four days to the emergency department of the defendant hospital.

Our client, a 50-year-old female, was at a friend’s house celebrating the Memorial Day holiday when she arose from her chair and experienced a sudden onset of excruciating back pain between her shoulder blades. The client was immediately taken to the emergency department by a family member and she explained the history of what had occurred. In addition — and of great significance– the patient explained that she had been prescribed with anticoagulation medication (Coumadin) to treat her underlying condition of atrial fibrillation. This fact was critical in the case because it is well known in the medical field that any patient who is on anticoagulation is at risk of developing abnormal bleeding anywhere in the body.

After being sent home with inadequate treatment during the first ER visit, the patient returned the next day with — in addition to the severe back pain — pain in her neck and numbness and tingling in her left arm. Although her symptoms had clearly progressed, the defendant physicians wrongly attributed her condition to a pinched nerve in the neck (cervical radiculopathy), although no imaging of the patient’s neck or upper back was performed. Again, the patient was sent home without a proper diagnosis or treatment.

The patient presented to the ER for a third time with the same symptoms, and pain that was noted to be constant 10 out 10 in the severity scale, despite treatment with narcotic pain medications. Incredibly, the patient was sent home yet again without any imaging being performed, and without any diagnosis for her symptoms.

Finally, the patient presented to a different hospital the next day where an MRI was immediately performed, which revealed a large cervical epidural hematoma (a collection of blood) in the patient’s cervical spine, which was compressing the nerve root and causing her neurological decline. Based upon that finding, the patient was rushed to emergency decompression surgery.

Fortunately for the patient, she has regained most of her strength and sensation, and the ability to walk, but it has been a long road to recovery and it has required extensive physical therapy and enormous effort by the patient to regain any semblance of a normal life.

Like a number of cases that McKeen & Associates litigates, this case exemplifies the manifest injustice of the current system of a “cap” on non-economic damages that medical malpractice plaintiffs are subjected to. The current cap for “pain and suffering” and “emotional distress” damages is a meager $471,000, no matter how devastating or life altering the injuries are.

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