£700,000 Compensation in Needless Leg Amputation Case

Posted on: 7 mins read
Last updated:
Kate Sweeney

Head of Clinical Negligence

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A Medical Negligence Claim Case Study – Client Situation

In September 2008, our client was referred to the Department of Vascular Surgery at Russell’s Hall Hospital, where he was diagnosed with an occlusive disease of his abdominal left iliac artery.

Occlusive disease is sometimes also referred to as peripheral arterial disease, or PAD, or peripheral vascular disease, shortened to PVD. According to the NHS, it is a common condition where a build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries restricts blood supply to the leg muscles.

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Symptoms of PAD

Many people with PAD have no symptoms. However, some develop a painful ache in their legs when they walk, which usually disappears after a few minutes' rest. The medical term for this is "intermittent claudication". The pain can range from mild to severe, and usually goes away after a few minutes when you rest your legs. Both legs are often affected at the same time, although the pain may be worse in one leg.

Other symptoms of PAD can include:

  • hair loss on your legs and feet
  • numbness or weakness in the legs
  • brittle, slow growing toenails
  • ulcers (open sores) on your feet and legs, which do not heal
  • changing skin colour on your legs, such as turning paler than usual or blue
  • shiny skin
  • in men, erectile dysfunction
  • the muscles in your legs shrinking (wasting)

The symptoms of PAD often develop slowly, over time. If your symptoms develop quickly, or get suddenly worse, it could be a sign of a serious problem requiring immediate treatment.

PAD is a form of cardiovascular disease (CVD) because it affects the blood vessels. It's usually caused by a build-up of fatty deposits in the walls of the leg arteries. The fatty deposits (also referred to as ‘atheroma’) are made up of cholesterol and other waste substances. The build-up of fatty deposits on the walls of the arteries makes the arteries narrower and restricts blood flow to the legs. This process is called atherosclerosis.

 

 

What can increase your chances of developing PAD?

There are certain things that can increase your chances of developing PAD and other forms of CVD, including:

  • smoking – this is the most significant risk factor
  • type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes
  • high blood pressure (also referred to as hypertension)
  • high cholesterol
  • growing older

Ordinarily, PAD is largely treated through lifestyle changes and medication. Exercising regularly and not smoking are the main lifestyle changes that can ease the symptoms of PAD and reduce the chances of it getting worse. It's also important to:

  • eat a healthy diet
  • lose weight, if you're overweight or obese
  • moderate your consumption of alcohol

 

Treatment of PAD

The underlying causes should also be treated, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. Medicine and, in some cases, surgery can be used to improve the blood flow in your legs.

With treatment, most people's symptoms remain stable, and some people may experience an improvement in their pain. If treatment is unsuccessful, there's a risk of potentially serious complications.

Our client was told he needed a crossover graft and was admitted to the hospital for the procedure in December 2008.

This was advised by medical staff as his condition had affected the iliac arteries in the pelvis, supplying blood to his legs. When only one iliac artery is blocked, a femoral artery can be joined at the top of the affected leg, and the one from the ‘good side’, using a graft. During surgery, the initial graft failed however a second was successful. Following this, a crossover graft was taken from the right common femoral to the left common femoral artery

The benefit of having surgery to resolve this issue is that it should allow you to walk further and without pain. It is also recommended when the circulation is so poor that the foot is painful when resting or at night.

At the end of the six-and-a-half-hour procedure, surgeons noted that our client could not feel or move his right leg, which was pale,  cold and had no pulse. The same findings were noted just over three hours later, and a blood thinner was administered, but with no further surgery carried out that evening.

At around 5:45am the next morning, a surgeon noted that our client’s right foot was pale, pulseless, and painful, with reduced sensation and a painful swelling in the right thigh. Shortly afterwards, our client was seen by a surgical specialist registrar, who suspected compartment syndrome. This is a serious condition involving increased pressure in a muscle compartment which can lead to muscle and nerve damage and problems with blood flow.

At approximately 9am, our client was returned to theatre for a fasciotomy to relieve the pressure and exploration of the graft. A bypass was taken from the aorta to both common femoral arteries and a four compartment fasciotomy of the right lower leg was performed.

A fasciotomy is a procedure where a surgeon makes cuts around the muscle to relieve the pressure. Sometimes, skin may need to be removed from another part of the body and used to cover the wound, which is known as a skin graft.

Despite these and various other procedures over the course of the next four months, our client showed little sign of improvement. Consequently, in May 2009, our client underwent an above knee amputation of his right leg.

 

 

How We Helped

Our client had gone through a prolonged, painful and distressing experience as a result of clinicians’ failure to diagnose his compartment syndrome. He therefore got in touch with our specialist team of Medical Negligence Solicitors to pursue a compensation claim against the Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust.

Our Medical Negligence Lawyers arranged for our client to undergo an independent medical assessment, so that we could establish his physical condition and future care needs. This helped us to calculate the amount of compensation which would be required for our client’s care and rehabilitation requirements to be met for the rest of his life.

 

The Outcome: £700,000 in Compensation for Medical Negligence

After lengthy negotiations between our Solicitors and the Lawyers representing Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust, the Trust offered to pay a total of £700,000 in compensation, which was accepted by our client.

This will help ensure he is able to access the care and support he requires in the future. We hope that this will allow him to enjoy a better quality of life.

This case shows the profound impact that medical negligence can have on a person’s life. Our client's journey, beginning with a routine referral, ultimately led to the devastating loss of his right leg. The consequences of this negligence extended far beyond the physical trauma that our client endured as it caused prolonged pain, emotional distress, and a significant decrease in the client's quality of life.

The initial misdiagnosis of compartment syndrome during surgery set off a chain of events that significantly worsened the client's condition. The failure to promptly recognise and address this serious condition resulted in irreversible damage, ultimately leading to the need for a life altering above knee amputation.

The aftermath of such medical negligence often extends beyond the immediate physical consequences. The client endured a protracted and painful journey, having to endure repeated surgical interventions, failed procedures and an overall lack of improvement. These experiences not only took a significant toll on his physical wellbeing but also caused him to go on to experience ongoing psychological distress.

The negotiated settlement of £700,000 reflects the severity of the harm inflicted on our client and acknowledges the ongoing care and support the client will need. While financial compensation can never restore what was lost, it will help to ensure access to ongoing care, rehabilitation and, hopefully, an improved quality of life for our client.

The aim of compensation in the UK is to compensate a person for their losses and to attempt to put them back into the place that they would have been in had the accident or negligence not occurred in the first place. Often that is something which can’t be achieved due to the nature of the impact and the injuries that have been sustained.

As such, all compensation can do is assist an individual in accessing the care and treatment that they will require going forward in their life and to compensate them for any financial losses they may have incurred, for example due to medical treatment or a loss of earnings arising from being unable to work.

Additionally, it is hoped that in some way, compensation can help to restore a sense of justice and balance for the affected individual, acknowledging the immeasurable losses that they endured due to the actions or inactions of healthcare providers. Some view compensation as also serving as a deterrent function within the healthcare system. By holding healthcare providers accountable for lapses in patient care, it encourages a culture of accountability, continuous improvement, and adherence to stringent standards. They are given an incentive, essentially, to prioritise patient safety, to implement robust protocols and to learn from past mistakes in order to prevent similar incidents in the future.

If you have had an experience that you believe may have been medically negligent or where you feel you have experienced negligent care, our expert team of Medical Negligence Solicitors can be contacted on 0808 258 0011 or by clicking here to request a call back.

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Kate Sweeney

Head of Clinical Negligence

Areas of Expertise:
Medical Negligence

Kate has extensive experience both in leadership and in the field of Personal Injury. She has 10 years of experience in Clinical Negligence where she handled a wide range of client files as well as managing and growing the team. For the last 16 years, Kate has worked in the area of Personal Injury, leading the team alongside managing a small caseload.

References

Simpson Millar Solicitors. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.simpsonmillar.co.uk/#form (Accessed December 5, 2023)

Simpson Millar Solicitors. (n.d.). "Medical Negligence Solicitors." Retrieved from https://www.simpsonmillar.co.uk/medical-negligence-solicitors/ (Accessed December 5, 2023)

Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust. (n.d.). "Crossover Bypass Grafts." Retrieved from https://www.guysandstthomas.nhs.uk/health-information/crossover-bypass-grafts (Accessed December 5, 2023)

NHS. (2023). "Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)." Retrieved from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/peripheral-arterial-disease-pad/ (Accessed December 5, 2023)

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