Fractures – Missed, untreated or misdiagnosed?


A fractured bone and a broken bone are one and the same thing. But the big question is did your doctor treat it properly? Were they rushed off their feet and rushing to treat you? Did they do an X-Ray and still miss it? Did it go untreated and cause you a great deal of unnecessary pain? These are just some of the things that happen, sometimes it can be due to medical neglect and if this is the case then you could be entitled to compensation.

Fractured Leg

Fractures mainly fall into 2 groups:

  1. Open (compound fracture) – eg when the bone sticks out of the skin; and
  2. Closed (simple fracture) – eg when the bone does not break through the skin

Obviously it's relatively easy to spot a compound fracture, but with simple fractures there is the possibility that they can be missed.

Fracture Symptoms

You will usually know if you have fractured a bone as you will generally feel a lot of pain. You may also have:

  • Heard a crack at the time of the fracture or notice a crunching/grating feeling
  • Swelling and bruising of the affected area
  • Obvious deformity of the limb

Diagnosing a fracture – potential misdiagnosis?

This will usually be done by a Doctor in the Accident and Emergency Department. To diagnose a fracture it will normally include one or more of the following procedures:

  • X-rays
  • An MRI scan
  • A CT scan (also known as a CAT scan)

Treatment of a fracture – did you get the right treatment?

The obvious treatment is to realign the fractured bone which is often referred to as reduction and can be done in a number of ways:

  • Plaster cast –this will immobilise the fractured bone and will allow it to heal
  • Traction - this consists or pulleys, strings, weights, and a metal frame attached over or on the bed. This type of reduction is used to stretch the muscles/tendons around the broken bone to allow the bone ends to align and heal
  • Surgery – this is sometimes necessary immediately to put the bones back together. Occasionally, it is necessary for the surgeon to insert metal pins and rods into the fractured bone (internal fixation) which will hold the fractured bone together and allow it to heal. Sometimes pins and rods are placed in your bones and continue outside your skin. These are then attached to a metal cage and it is possible for the surgeon to make adjustments to this as the bone heals to ensure alignment. This is known as external fixation.

Complications of a Fracture – things that can go wrong

  • Compartment Syndrome – is an emergency and can result in amputation if not diagnosed and treated promptly
  • Fat Embolism – can also result in death if not diagnosed and treated promptly
  • Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
  • Vascular necrosis – death of the bone which will ultimately result in the destruction of the joint next to the dead bone
  • Non-union (when the bone doesn’t heal together) or mal-union (when the bone has healed in an abnormal position) but is a delayed complication of a fracture
  • Tenderness and joint stiffness is a long term complication of a fracture
  • Oestomyelitis (infection of the bone)

Complications of a fracture can arise simply because of the injury itself and not as a result of substandard care. However, it may be the case that the hospital, or other healthcare provider has failed to recognise the symptoms of the complication and you may have suffered as a result of a failure to refer, or treat the complication appropriately.

Fractures and Accident and Emergency care

The Accident and Emergency Department is a very busy place which can involve long waits to be seen by either a triage nurse, a doctor or both.

The previous government had a target that no-one should wait more than 4 hours in accident and emergency from arrival to admission, transfer or discharge. The revised Operating Framework for NHS in England 2010-11 came out in June. It announced the 4hr standard would be replaced by a set of clinical quality indicators in April 2011.

However, as a result of such targets, and the pressure placed upon staff to meet those targets, a number of conditions are not diagnosed and referral to the appropriate specialist team are not made.

The most commonly missed diagnosis is that of a fracture.

Do you have a claim?

At Simpson Millar we recognise the devastating, and in some very severe cases fatal, effect that the failure to diagnose a fracture, or a delay in specialist treatment, can have. We understand and recognise the importance of compensation as it can greatly improve quality of life for you and your family and provide the care and security that is needed.

If you would like to talk to a member of our specialist team for an assessment of your potential claim then please contact us for a confidential and free discussion today.

News Archive

Get In Touch