If you have suffered an injury to the neck then it would usually be wise to go and see a medical professional so that you could get the right treatment and advice. This would usually give you the best chance of a good recovery. However, what happens if you visit your GP or hospital with symptoms of a fracture and yet you leave the doctor’s surgery or hospital with a missed atlas fracture? What harm could this do? And is there anything you could do about it?
This guide aims to offer all the information you could need about suffering a missed or misdiagnosed atlas fracture. The sections below contain information about C1 fracture symptoms, as well as guidance on the appropriate diagnosis and treatment of an atlas bone fracture. We also include details of how a missed fracture could be classed as medical malpractice, as well as the actions you could take if you suffer avoidable harm because of this type of negligence. If you have any questions about anything contained in the sections below, you can reach our team on 0800 652 3087. However, we’d urge you to read the sections below in full to see if we’ve already provided the answer to your question.
Choose A Section
- A Guide To Missed Atlas Fracture Compensation Claims
- What Is A Missed Fracture Of The Atlas Bone?
- Causes Of Undiagnosed Breaks Or Fractures
- Causes Of An Atlas Or C1 Fracture
- Atlas (C1) Fracture Symptoms
- Diagnosis, Treatment And Management Of An Atlas Fracture
- Could I Claim Compensation For An Undiagnosed Fracture?
- Claims For Undiagnosed Or Missed Atlas Fractures By A GP
- Claims For Undiagnosed Or Missed Atlas Fractures By A Hospital
- NHS Patients Responsibilities And Rights
- Time Limits To Claim For Undiagnosed Bone Fractures
- Missed Atlas Fracture Claims Calculator
- No Win No Fee Claims For Misdiagnosed Atlas Fracture
- Begin Your Claim
- Reference Materials
Failure to diagnose a fracture when a patient shows symptoms of such an injury could be considered medical negligence. Whether your doctor has failed to order the right tests or has not interpreted the results of your tests correctly, you could experience avoidable harm if C1 fractures are missed. This guide looks specifically at what could happen if you suffered a missed atlas fracture and explores whether you could consider making a compensation claim for negligence if you have suffered avoidable harm from a missed diagnosis.
A missed atlas fracture could occur in one of two ways:
- You have not sought treatment for an injury you have sustained
- You have sought treatment and advice for an injury you have sustained and the correct diagnosis has not been given.
This guide covers the second situation. If you have visited your GP or the hospital with symptoms of a broken atlas but the correct tests have not been ordered, or your test results were not interpreted correctly, then your injury could go undiagnosed. If so, this could cause issues with healing and could lead to long-term problems. In some cases, you could suffer a compressed spinal cord, which could, in extreme cases, lead to neurological injuries.
In later sections, there is information on how to go about making a personal injury claim for avoidable harm caused by a missed or misdiagnosed atlas fracture.
There could be many reasons why a break or fracture could go undiagnosed. As we mentioned earlier, the failure to order an X-ray or the failure to interpret the results of an X-ray could be two reasons why a fracture could be missed, but in addition to this, it may be relevant to take a deeper look at the reasons a misdiagnosis could occur.
It is no secret that our NHS is under pressure, and according to the CQC, wintertime puts even more pressure on the NHS which means that, in some instances, even the most fundamental standards that are in place for patient care might not be lived up to. The CQC reveals in their ‘Under Pressure’ report, that in addition to the greater numbers seeking assistance in the winter months, there are also patients presenting with complex needs, and this may mean resources are directed away from other patients when they are needed. The CQC has stated that system-wide changes must be made to ensure that our NHS can withstand such pressure without failing to meet the standard of care that should be offered to all patients.
Before we reveal the most common causes of an atlas or C1 fracture, we should first give you some information on the type of injury that could be classed as an atlas fracture.
What Is A Jefferson’s Fracture?
A Jefferson’s fracture is another name for an atlas fracture. It is a fracture of both the anterior and posterior arches of the atlas.
The atlas, or C1 is one of the cervical vertebrae in the neck. The spine is made up of several of these vertebrae, C1-C7 are the cervical vertebrae, located at the back of the neck, while further down the spine you have T1-T12, which are the thoracic vertebrae. In the lower portion of the spine are the lumbar vertebrae, which are numbered L1-L5, and finally, at the bottom of your back, you have the sacral vertebrae.
The top 2 vertebrae, C1 and C2 are named the atlas and axis respectively. The atlas bone, C1, is a round ringed bone that the C2 fits into via a protrusion on its upper end. Together, the axis and the atlas allow rotation of the head.
Why Is It Called A Jefferson’s Fracture?
The fracture is named after a British neurosurgeon and neurologist, Sir Geoffrey Jefferson. He reported early cases of this type of fracture and reviewed previous cases of this type of fracture. The atlas fracture name may be used to describe such an injury, but it could also be called a C1 fracture by some doctors.
How Do You Get A Jefferson Fracture?
Usually, the cause of a Jefferson fracture would be some kind of trauma to the area, and this could include:
- Sports injury
- Car accident
- And more…
There are two types of missed Jefferson fractures that could occur and symptoms may differ depending on which type of fracture you have sustained. These could include:
Stable fractures: These would be where the bone could have been damaged or broken yet the pieces have not moved and the structure could be considered to be intact. Symptoms could include:
- Pain and stiffness
- Some swelling/bruising
Unstable fractures: These would occur when the structure of the neck/spine has been or could be compromised, which could lead to spinal cord or nerve damage. Symptoms of this kind of fracture could include the symptoms above, as well as:
- Referred pain elsewhere in the body
- Spinal cord damage
- Difficulty breathing
- And more…
Getting the right advice and treatment is vital to ensure you have the best chance of recovery with such injuries, and particularly in unstable fracture cases, to avoid spinal cord and long-term nerve damage, which could have detrimental effects on your mobility and health in the long-term. If you have suffered avoidable harm from a missed C1 fracture, it could leave you with significant health issues. If you could prove that negligence led to your missed Jefferson fracture, you could claim compensation for this avoidable harm.
Diagnosis, treatment and Jefferson fracture management could largely depend on the extent of the fracture and whether it was stable or unstable.
In terms of stable fracture management, you may not require an operation, and instead, you may have to wear a brace for some time instead, or a collar, to allow the structure of the neck to be supported while you heal. This would work similarly to how a plaster cast would be applied to a broken arm injury – immobilising it while it heals. Usually, you would require X-rays or scans during the healing process, to ensure that the bones remained in the correct position.
If you have an unstable fracture, then it may be necessary for you to undergo surgery to fix the broken bones to stop them moving. Rods, screws and plates may be used to rebuild the structure, and these may be left in position even after the bones have healed.
The surgery could be performed on the front or on the back of your neck, depending on the specific type of fracture that you have sustained.
If you have neurological symptoms, or your spinal cord has been damaged, your treatment may be more intensive and you may have to wait sometime for swelling to ease before you can undergo surgery. Each person’s treatment would be entirely tailored to their specific needs.
However, it is essential for you to be immobilised while your fracture is assessed and the proper treatment plan is decided upon. This is why a missed atlas fracture could be devastating in extreme cases. If you are not aware that you have a fractured atlas and you move around, this could cause more damage to the neck, the spinal cord and even the brain.
How Long Does It Take For A C1 Fracture To Heal?
Depending on how bad the fracture was, whether it affected the spinal cord and whether there were neurological issues, the time it takes for a C1 fracture to heal could vary significantly. Full nerve root and spinal column recovery could take between 12-18 months, but for some injuries, the healing time might be as little as 8-12 weeks.
There are two things you would be required to prove to be eligible to claim compensation for a misdiagnosed or missed atlas fracture. These include:
Breach of duty of care – You would be required to prove that the medical professionals that were involved in your care had a duty of care towards you and that they breached that duty of care.
Causation – You would also have to prove that the breach of duty caused you to suffer avoidable harm.
You could claim compensation for both private and NHS negligence that has caused you avoidable harm. You would have to be within the personal injury claims time limit to do so. We explain more about time limits in one of the sections below.
A GP is sometimes our first point of contact when we are ill or injured, but a GP may not have the facilities to accurately diagnose every medical condition or injury. If they do not have the facilities to diagnose you accurately, they should then refer you to someone who could. In the case of a potential atlas bone fracture, they could send you to the nearest hospital with the equipment and capability to diagnose such a fracture.
If your doctor has misdiagnosed your atlas fracture because they dismissed your symptoms or did not refer you where appropriate, then you could be eligible to claim compensation for the avoidable harm you have suffered because of your missed diagnosis or misdiagnosis.
If you have visited a hospital, either due to a referral from your GP or because you’ve decided to visit A&E with your injury, you should expect to have your symptoms investigated properly, so that a diagnosis could be provided. You would also expect to receive the appropriate treatment and advice on how to care for such an injury.
However, sometimes fractures are missed in emergency departments. There could be a variety of reasons for this. According to an article in the emergency medicine section of the British Medical Journal, a study was undertaken of a busy A&E department that looked at diagnostic errors over a 4-year period. The study showed that the most common types of misdiagnosis were missed fractures. This made up 79.7% of the total diagnostic errors studied.
The most common reasons for such misdiagnoses were the misreading of radiographs (77.8%) and the failure to order radiographs (13.4%).
Whatever the reason you have suffered harm due to a missed atlas fracture, you could explore the possibility of claiming compensation for this. If you’re unsure as to whether you’d be able to make a claim, we could help. Simply call our team for a free assessment of your eligibility, and we’ll be happy to assist.
NHS patients have certain rights when it comes to their medical care, and these include being treated within the CQC’s fundamental standards of care.
The fundamental standards of care mean that patients should be:
- Given safe, effective care without the risk of avoidable harm
- Given care by trained, experienced and capable professionals
- Given the right to complain about their care, and those complaints handled effectively
- Treated with openness and transparency
In terms of complaints handling, the NHS is required to acknowledge complaints within three days, and patients should have the right to an explanation and apology where something has gone wrong with their care.
The personal injury claims time limit for most clinical negligence claims is usually 3 years. The three-year limitation period would usually begin from the date that you were made aware that the missed fractured atlas had caused you avoidable harm, and not necessarily the date that you visit the doctor or hospital with an atlas fracture.
There are, however, some exceptions that could apply when making a claim for a missed or misdiagnosed atlas bone fracture. These could include cases where you suffered the injury as a child and it was missed, but no adult had make a medical negligence claim on your behalf. Other cases could include those where you did not have the mental or physical capacity to make a claim at the time.
If you are not sure whether you would be within the relevant time limit for making a personal injury claim for your missed fracture, then one call to our team could help to clarify the situation for you.
If you were thinking of making a claim for a missed atlas fracture, you may be wondering how much compensation could be achievable for such a claim. You may have searched online for a personal injury claims calculator, but we should mention that these calculators would only be able to give you an approximation of how much your injury could be worth. Your claim would only be valued once you’d had an assessment with an independent medical expert. They would then collate all the medical evidence, and write a report. This would usually be used then to value your claim.
We do understand that this could be a little frustrating, however, as you might be wondering whether it would be ‘worth’ going forward with a claim. In order to give you some idea of potential compensation awards, we’ve collated some information from the Judicial College Guidelines that relate to fracture injuries. These amounts would, obviously, still be only rough guidelines, but could give you a useful indication on how much certain injuries could be compensated.
|Type Of Injury
|Payout Bracket (Approx)
|Severe Neck Injuries
|Those that result in paraplegia (incomplete)/spastic quadriparesis or there is little to no movement regained despite a collar being in place 24 hours per day. Severe headaches would also remain.
|Severe neck injuries
|Where there are serious fractures, or damaged cervical spine discs that fall short of the injuries above but lead to significant disabilities, including permanent brachial plexus damage, a substantial movement loss to the neck, and limb function loss in one or more of the limbs.
|£61,710 to £122,860
|Severe neck injuries
|Dislocations or fractures, or severe damage to soft tissues. Disability would be permanent and significant. The prognosis and the extent of treatment required would be assessed.
|£42,680 to £52,540
|Moderate neck injuries
|Where spinal fusion might be required. There could be referred symptoms elsewhere in the body, and there could be a marked vulnerability to future damage.
|£23,460 to £36,120
|Moderate neck injuries
|Disc lesions leading to cervical spondylosis, with severe limitation on movement, as well as increased vulnerability for future damage to occur.
|£12,900 to £23,460
It would be prudent for us to also advise you that these are not necessarily the only amounts you may be awarded in compensation for a missed atlas fracture. As well as the compensation for the injury you’ve suffered and the pain that it has caused you, you could also claim for costs and losses that you have sustained directly due to your missed or misdiagnosed fractured atlas. These could include, loss of income, medical and travel expenses, as well as care costs.
If you were considering making a claim for compensation, you may also be considering whether or not to retain the services of a personal injury lawyer to help you. There are certain benefits of considering using the services of a legal professional for such a claim. An experienced lawyer could not only help take a lot of the leg work from you when it comes to building a strong case, but they would also have the capability to fight for the maximum compensation for your case.
Retaining the services of such a personal injury solicitor would not mean you’d have to pay them upfront, as long as they work on a No Win No Fee Basis. This type of claim would require you to sign an agreement, known as a Conditional Fee Agreement, before your case begins. In this agreement would be the requirement for you to pay a percentage of your total compensation to the medical negligence lawyer if your case was successful. If you are concerned about how much of a percentage this would be, then you may be relieved to learn that it could not be more than 25%, as there is a government cap in place preventing any more from being taken. If your medical negligence solicitor does not manage to obtain a compensation payout for you, even though your claim was valid, you would not be required to pay the success fee.
Whether you have further questions about making a compensation claim for a missed atlas fracture, or you’re looking for guidance on finding a lawyer to help you, we’d be delighted to assist you. Here at Medical Negligence Assist, we have years of experience in guiding and supporting those who have suffered medical negligence, and who would like to explore claiming compensation for the avoidable harm they’ve suffered because of it. You can call us for free on 0800 652 3087 or use the live chat or contact form on the site. We offer advice that is free of charge, and we could even help to connect you with a medical negligence lawyer who could help you begin your claim for compensation.
Hull University Teaching Hospitals Guidance On Discharge for A Cervical Spinal Fracture– Here, you can read discharge advice for patients with cervical fractures.
Non-Complex Fracture Management – Here, you can read the NICE guidelines for non-complex fracture management.
Walton Centre’s Guidance On Cervical Fracture Management – Here, you can read a patient leaflet for cervical fracture care and management.
Have You Been Misdiagnosed?– Our guide to misdiagnosis claims may offer you some useful guidance.
Atlas Fracture Missed By The Hospital? – Here, we reveal some useful information about hospital negligence claims.
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Written by Jo
Edited by LisM.