Did A Misdiagnosis of Transverse Myelitis Cause My Spinal Cord Injury?


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Transverse myelitis is a neurological disorder in which the spinal cord becomes inflamed, and the swelling restricts communication between nerves in the spinal cord and other parts of the body. The inflammation attacks and damages the substance that coats nerve fibers, called myelin. Subsequently, symptoms will appear, but it can take hours, days, or even weeks for them to begin. While the symptoms of transverse myelitis are typically easy to describe and observe, they are frequently mistaken as indications of other medical conditions. When that happens, an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment are delayed, and patients suffer unnecessarily.

Transverse myelitis is not a condition that doctors see often. Still, when it does occur and isn’t treated effectively, there can be long-lasting effects for patients – even permanent paralysis.

What Are The Symptoms Of Transverse Myelitis?

For some patients, transverse myelitis develops quickly, while in others, it happens gradually over several weeks. Where the damage occurs in the spinal cord often dictates which areas of the body are affected, with symptoms appearing where the damage is and below.

The common symptoms of transverse myelitis include:

  • Pain – Early symptoms of transverse myelitis commonly begin with shooting pain in the back that travels to the arms, legs, and torso.
  • Limb weakness and paralysis – Weakness in the legs usually advances quickly, and when the upper spinal cord is involved, the arms may also suffer weakness. The limb weakness may progress into partial or complete paralysis.
  • Sensory changes – Numbness and other sensory alterations, including tingling, burning, coldness, or prickling in the legs, are common with transverse myelitis. There may also be altered sensations in the genitals and torso.
  • Bowel and bladder dysfunction – These symptoms may include incontinence, increased need to go to the bathroom, constipation, and difficulty emptying the bladder.

Additionally, symptoms like loss of appetite, flu-like symptoms, muscle spasms, respiratory problems, sexual dysfunction, depression and anxiety, and chronic pain have been reported in some instances of transverse myelitis.

What Causes Transverse Myelitis?

The exact cause of transverse myelitis isn’t known in about half of cases. However, multiple conditions are known to cause it in the other half. Doctors who treat the condition must identify the cause quickly to treat cases appropriately. The prompt, effective treatment provides the best chance of a complete recovery from transverse myelitis.

Known causes of transverse myelitis include:

  • Immune system disorders – This includes disorders such as neuromyelitis optica, post-infectious or post-vaccine autoimmune phenomenon, and multiple sclerosis
  • Bacterial infections – Infections include tuberculosis, syphilis, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, actinomyces, Lyme disease, middle-ear infections, mycoplasma bacterial pneumonia, and bacterial skin infections.
  • Viral infections – This includes herpes simplex, varicella zoster (chickenpox and shingles), Epstein-Barr, cytomegalovirus, influenza, hepatitis B, measles, mumps, rubella, echovirus, and flaviviruses such as Zika and West Nile.
  • Fungal infections – These infections include coccidiodes, Blastomyces, Aspergillus, and cryptococcus.
  • Parasites – This includes such parasites as toxoplasmosis, angtiostrongyloides, cysticercosis, and schistosomiasis.
  • Vascular disorders – This includes disorders such as dural arterial-venous fistula, arteriovenous malformation, intra-spinal cavernous malformations, or disk embolism.
  • Other disorders – Other inflammatory disorders that affect the spinal cord, including systemic lupus erythematosus, sarcoidosis, scleroderma, Sjogren’s syndrome, Bechet’s syndrome, and mixed connective tissue disease, can also cause transverse myelitis.

Who Is Liable For A Misdiagnosis Of Transverse Myelitis?

While not every case of transverse myelitis could have been prevented, some cases could have. When a medical error leads to a misdiagnosis or a delay in diagnosis, it may be considered medical malpractice, and the doctors or other medical professionals who made the error could be held liable. Some possible medical mistakes that could result in missed or delayed diagnoses include:

  • Failure to obtain complete medical history
  • Failure to identify early symptoms
  • Inadequate physical examination
  • Inadequate testing and imaging performed
  • Misreading tests and/or imaging results

Pennsylvania Misdiagnosis Medical Malpractice Lawyers

Even though transverse myelitis isn’t as common as many other serious medical conditions, when it occurs, the results can be devastating to patients and their families. While some patients with transverse myelitis will be diagnosed quickly and treated appropriately, many others will not. Missed or delayed diagnosis of transverse myelitis can cause severe spinal cord injuries and permanent disabilities, for which ongoing medical care is required.

If you suffer from severe, long-term effects of transverse myelitis that was misdiagnosed or delayed in diagnosis, you may have a valid medical malpractice claim. These types of cases are complicated and can be challenging to prove. You need to contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case. You may be entitled to compensation for damages, including medical expenses, lost wages, and more.

At Ross Feller Casey, our legal team is ready to help you with your transverse myelitis lawsuit. We are committed to protecting your rights and will fight for the financial recovery you deserve. Whether a settlement is reached or your case goes to trial, our attorneys are prepared to litigate your lawsuit. Call the Ross Feller Casey law firm today to discuss your case with one of our leading medical malpractice lawyers. You will not be charged for the consultation or lawyer fees unless there’s a financial recovery.

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