We pursued a delayed diagnosis claim for Patrick, who suffered a fracture during a football game and subsequently developed compartment syndrome, which if not diagnosed early enough can have catastrophic consequences. By the time that compartment syndrome was diagnosed and treated, Patrick's leg had become infected and had to be amputated below the knee. The defendants admitted liability and Patrick received £225,000 compensation.
Patrick was a goalkeeper in a football match and was injured in a tackle with the opponent’s striker. He was taken to the Wrexham Park Hospital at about 5pm on 31 October 1998. He had suffered a comminuted fracture of the left fibula and tibula. He was x-rayed and admitted to hospital for inter-medullary nailing the following day.
On the 1 November, surgery took place to stabilise the fractures. After the surgery Patrick remained in significant pain, which was difficult to control even with pethidine. Movement in his toes was minimal and the pain in the left leg continued to be excruciating. He was seen frequently by the nursing staff, but only on rare occasions by the clinical staff.
On the 5 November, he was seen by a group of doctors who immediately decided to take Patrick to theatre to investigate the pain and in particular the pressure in his lower left leg.
These tests revealed that Patrick was suffering from compartment syndrome. This is a condition, which results from the compression of the muscles and nerves that lie within the facial compartment. If the pressure is sustained too long, the muscle is damaged beyond repair and usually becomes infected. It is extremely important to make an early diagnoses so that the pressure can be released. Such treatment usually results in a good recovery.
Sadly, Patrick's leg did become infected and despite further treatment at the Royal London Hospital and the Southampton General Hospital. his left leg had to be amputated below the knee.
An early diagnosis was crucial and our expert evidence confirmed that Patrick was probably suffering compartment syndrome soon after he was admitted to hospital. The signs were detectible had the proper examinations taken place early in the admission.
Our evidence also indicated that although the admitting registrar had noted the risks of compartment syndrome, this was not followed up by the other clinical and nursing staff.
It should have been obvious that the increased pain not covered by analgesics, the restriction in movement, the pins and needles on the ball of his foot and reducing sensation including a numb bottom part of the left leg meant that compartment syndrome was most likely.
Our experts confirmed that had the diagnosis been made the pressure would have been released and Patrick's leg would not have become infected and he would not have required to amputation.
Paul McNeil was instructed by Patrick and liability was admitted by the defendant.
After considerable negotiation and offers on both sides, the action was finally settled in December 2000 in the sum of £225,000 plus costs.
The settlement comprised of general damages of £55,000 with special damages to date in the region of £20,000. Much of the remaining sum was for the cost of future prostheseses. The case was funded by legal expense insurance.
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