Serious consequences of delayed diagnosis and treatment of spinal tuberculosis

18 June 2021

Positive impact of achieving justice and securing the funds to set up a rehabilitation package.
serious injury spinal tuberculosis tb delayed diagnosis treatment

Shoosmiths settled a case for a woman left with spinal damage, restricted mobility and reduced bladder function.

At the age of 68, our client started experiencing symptoms related to spinal tuberculosis (TB) but did not receive the appropriate standard of treatment from her GP or hospital.

Problems with the GP

Our client initially went to her GP complaining of pain in her thoracic spine. After a few months, she returned to her GP and explained that her symptoms had worsened and expanded, and she was experiencing issues with the function of her bladder and bowel. The GP planned for an ESR blood test to be carried out, but it never took place due to a failure to refer on behalf of the GP. If the ESR test had taken place, a diagnosis could have been made earlier.

Our client persisted with attendances to her GP as the pain and symptoms continued. Following a further appointment with her GP a week or so later, she underwent an X-ray which suggested symptoms of discitis (inflammation between the intervertebral discs of the spine). The GP then referred our client for a MRI scan and an urgent appointment with a rheumatologist.

Delays at the hospital

Later that month, our client was taken to hospital as she had deteriorated neurologically and showed signs of spinal cord compressions with weakness in her lower limbs, constipation and urinary incontinence. It took 5 days for our client to be transferred to a specialist spinal team at a different hospital. During this 5-day period our client’s lower limb function further deteriorated.

A neurological assessment was undertaken by the spinal team who then urgently transferred our client to a spinal surgical team for surgical decompression of the spinal cord and spinal fixation. Our client’s lower limb function was much worse following the surgery and a second surgical procedure had to be carried out to remove a post-operative haematoma.

Our client also had to start anti TB therapy following diagnosis of mycobacterium (the bacteria that causes TB, amongst other things) and then started a long period of rehabilitation.

Consequences for our client

As a result of the delay in diagnosis and substandard treatment, our client is now only able to walk short distances assisted by a rollator and requires a wheelchair for longer distances. She also suffers from reduced bladder function which causes urgency with urination.

Our client and her family sought legal advice and instructed Sharon Banga, a senior associate in the medical negligence team at Shoosmiths, to pursue a claim against the Hospital and GP for the delay in diagnosis and treatment of spinal TB.

For the claim to be successful our client needed to prove that her GP and hospital had breached their duty of care and that this breach caused her to suffer worse symptoms. Shoosmiths gathered expert evidence which commented on the treatment our client received and the time it took for her to be transferred to a specialist spinal unit.

The hospital admitted liability in relation to the lack of timeliness of the MRI scan and delay in transfer to the specialist spinal unit. It was admitted that the MRI scan should have been undertaken sooner and the transfer, which took 5 days, should have taken place within 24 – 48 hours.

It was also admitted that if our client has been transferred earlier, she would have received better treatment to decompress her spine, which would have significantly improved her bladder and bowel dysfunction.


Shoosmiths settled the claim against both the GP and hospital six weeks before the trial was set to take place and secured a six-figure sum for the client.

Sharon Banga comments:

‘It was a relief for our client and her family to see a successful conclusion to this case. The client has also commented on the positive impact of achieving justice and securing the funds to set up a rehabilitation package. Being able to ensure that her care, and other needs, are provided for via the compensation received, has given her much needed reassurance for her future’.

If you have suffered a similar experience or would like to talk to someone about your injury, get in touch with us today for a free consultation. Call 0370 086 8687 or send us a message



This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. © Shoosmiths LLP 2024

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