£100,000 for delayed diagnosis of giant cell arteritis

06 March 2024

Our client, John, was an elderly gentleman who lived at home and acted as the main carer for his wife. 

He began experiencing double vision and was advised by his GP to see an optometrist. John saw an optometrist who advised that he needed a new prescription.

He woke up one morning with no vision in his right eye. He attended the A&E department at his local hospital the same day. He was seen by a consultant who failed to recognise that John was showing signs of giant cell arteritis.

Giant cell arteritis is a condition that causes inflammation in the large and medium-sized arteries in your body, especially in the neck and head. If the arteries become inflamed, blood flow becomes restricted, and if the artery that supplies the eye is affected, it can cause permanent sight loss. Other symptoms include headaches, pain around the eyes, pain when chewing, double vision, and temporary vision loss.

Usually, if giant cell arteritis is suspected, emergency treatment will be started immediately with a high dose of steroids to reduce inflammation before any long-term symptoms occur. A smaller dose of steroids will then need to be taken for 18 – 24 months thereafter.

The Trust admitted that the consultant failed to diagnose John with giant cell arteritis. The consultant should have arranged urgent blood tests and commenced intravenous methylprednisolone treatment, which is a type of steroid. Instead, John was incorrectly diagnosed with right non-arteritic anterior ischaemic optic neuropathy and discharged home.

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"We wanted to say a massive thank you to you both for all your hard work in our case… Your kindness throughout has been much appreciated. Professionally your service was 1st class and we are happy to provide a testimonial to that effect. We can now draw a line in the sand and move on with our wonderful memories of Dad"

Family of John

Blood tests were conducted and reviewed seven days later. John received a call from the consultant that afternoon telling him to attend the hospital urgently as he needed to start intravenous methylprednisolone treatment. Unfortunately, John began suffering from intermittent vision loss in his left eye the same day. He was rushed to hospital via ambulance. However, treatment was not effective, and John was completely blind when he was discharged from the hospital several days later.

John could no longer care for his wife. He struggled to navigate around his home. He also struggled with his balance. Following his complete loss of vision, he also began suffering from hallucinations caused by Charles Bonnet Syndrome, which made it even more difficult for him to move around.

Four months after being discharged, John was admitted to the hospital because he had fallen over ten times in ten days. Sadly, John contracted Covid-19 several days later and died in hospital.

The Trust admitted that if John had been correctly diagnosed with giant cell arteritis he would have retained normal vision in his left eye. Clare Langford and Natasha Alton successfully achieved a financial settlement of £100,000 for the pain and suffering that John had endured due to their negligence. The Trust also apologised to John’s family for the failures in the medical care that they provided to him.

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