Clare was 50-years-old and employed by the local authority as a care assistant in a residential home. She was involved in a road traffic accident which resulted in her suffering a rotator cuff injury to her left (dominant) shoulder.
Initially, she seemed to recover reasonably well from the surgery, and ultimately was able to return to work on light duties. However, several months later she started to develop symptoms in her left arm, including swelling, hypersensitivity and a moderate to severe level of pain. Her symptoms varied in intensity from day to day. She attempted to continue working, still on light duties, but was eventually signed off by her doctor.
“Several months later she started to
develop symptoms in her left arm,
including swelling, hypersensitivity and
a moderate to severe level of pain. Her
symptoms varied in intensity from day to day.”
The orthopaedic shoulder specialist could not explain the symptoms and advised that she would be capable of returning to work on a full-time basis within 12 months. By that stage her employer was threatening to terminate her employment on the grounds of long term incapacity.
Given the nature of Clare’s symptoms, we asked the orthopaedic specialist whether she could be suffering from Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). The response we received was fairly dismissive. Nevertheless, we referred her to a consultant rheumatologist who is a nationally recognised expert in the diagnosis and treatment of CRPS. He immediately diagnosed the condition.
“We referred her to a consultant rheumatologist
who is a nationally recognised expert in the
diagnosis and treatment of CRPS. He
immediately diagnosed the condition.”
In Clare’s case, a substantial amount of specialist treatment, including an in-patient rehabilitation programme, failed to result in any significant improvement. Regrettably, following a re-examination, the rheumatologist advised that Clare could not expect any further significant reduction in the level of her symptoms. In relation to employment, it was his opinion that she would never be capable of anything other than part-time work, with little or no manual component.
By that stage, Clare’s employment with the local authority had been terminated. However, now armed with a definitive diagnosis and prognosis, Clare was in a better position to consider her longer-term employment options and was subsequently able to secure part-time employment in a far less demanding job. Of course, that resulted in significant ongoing lost earnings, but with the support of the medical evidence, we were then able to factor those losses into her claim, along with the cost of ongoing care, equipment, medication and disadvantage in the employment market.