Consequences of incorrect surgery
Josie* has suffered from a bad back for a long time, however late last year she attended an appointment with her GP after having sudden back pain.
Her GP thought something may be trapped and had concerns about her losing bladder function. Josie’s GP advised if her condition deteriorated she would need to go to A&E.
Unfortunately, Josie attended A&E a few days later and was admitted. An MRI scan was carried out and Josie was seen by a consultant who advised she would need to have a microdiscectomy due to her symptoms.
A few days later, Josie underwent a microdiscectomy and was discharged home six days after first being admitted.
However several days later, Josie found herself back in A&E suffering from excruciating back pain. Another MRI scan took place before she was admitted to hospital again.
After being examined, doctors told Josie she would need further surgery. Subsequently, she underwent a removal of the prolapsed disc in the L5 S1 area before being discharged from hospital a few days later to recover at home.
Unfortunately, Josie’s pain returned and she went back to the hospital. At this point, doctors were worried the disc in her back had prolapsed again and a scan was carried out. The scan confirmed a bad prolapse and she would need to undergo another surgery right away.
Later on in the day, the surgeon advised Josie would be unable to have another operation that day as she’d recently undergone two surgeries in a short space of time. The following day the surgeon advised, after reviewing her scan again, the prolapse was quite severe and the surgery would need to happen in the next few hours.
That evening an emergency came in and Josie’s surgery was postponed until the next day.
The surgery actually took place two days later and Josie’s surgeon advised beforehand that her pain was due to scar tissue. There was a 50% chance that the operation would work and there was a gel which could be inserted to stop the scar tissue affecting Josie as much.
Post-operatively, Josie was told the surgeon had removed the scar tissue and a bit of bone to help take the pressure off her nerves from the scar tissue. He advised he didn’t find a prolapsed disc during the operation.
Still in pain, Josie found she was now unable to move the toes on her left foot; she had complete numbness from the knee down and pain travelling down her left leg. After being in pain for a few days, she was sent for an MRI to diagnose the cause.
Josie’s pain continued and the next day she was advised the physiotherapist was happy and she would be able to go home. She questioned if the MRI had been looked at and was told it hadn’t yet.
A senior consultant came to see Josie about an hour later and informed her that the surgeon had unfortunately performed the incorrect surgery by going into her spine at the wrong level.
Due to going in at the wrong level, the surgeon had been unable to see the prolapsed disc. It was agreed the consultant would speak with the anaesthetist about carrying out another surgery to remove the disc. Josie was assured a full investigation would be carried out.
The surgeon apologised to Josie a few days later for his mistake and later that day she underwent further surgery to remove the prolapsed disc.
Upon returning home Josie was still in pain and her GP increased her pain medication to help with this. She attended an appointment with her consultant who advised he thought the pain was neuropathic from where the nerve had been damaged and referred her for an MRI.
The results from Josie’s MRI showed scar tissue on her nerves and she had a nerve root injection to help this. Josie still suffers from pain when she’s walking and walks with crutches to help this. She also has numbness from her knee down on her left leg and isn’t able to do some of the activities she did before the negligence.
Josie contacted Fletchers in October 2017 and we investigated her claim, making a complaint on her behalf in December 2017. The NHS accepted liability and Josie’s claim was settled just three months after it began for a five-figure sum.
Amy Kirk, a medical negligence lawyer at Fletchers, handled Josie’s claim and said,
This case is a good example of how important it is to have frank and thorough discussions with your customers. Not only to ensure you understand what is most important to them, but that they are provided with all the necessary information they need to enable them to make a fully informed decision as to how their cases progresses. Here at Fletchers, we believe in gaining fast and fair settlements for our customers and Josie’s case is a true example of how proactive conduct from the Defendant can help achieve a great settlement for all parties.
*Josie’s name has been changed to protect her identity.
Amy Kirk - Case Lawyer
Key case timeline
Josie underwent a microdiscectomy and remove of a prolapsed disc. However her back pain returned and a scan confirmed she had a bad prolapsed disc and would need surgery for this. The surgeon unfortunately went in at the wrong level and was therefore unable to see the prolapsed disc. She needed further surgery and now suffers from numbness from her left knee down to her foot.
We settled Josie's case within three months for a five-figure sum.
It is expected Josie will recover from the numbness in her leg within the next 6-9 months.