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Damages recovered following adverse outcome to spinal surgery

This case study demonstrates the expertise of our Clinical Negligence team who recently recovered £145,000 for a client who suffered frequent falls, pain and depression as a result of an inappropriate surgical procedure, leaving him with significant care and equipment needs.

The claimant was aged 30 when he first experienced back pain. He attended his A&E department with a suspicion of a slipped disc. However, his symptoms persisted. He began wearing a lumbar support and underwent physiotherapy, but his condition continued to deteriorate.

Due to his worsening symptoms, the claimant could no longer commute into London, where he worked. Four years after the symptoms started, spondylolisthesis (displacement of the vertebrae in relation to the vertebrae below) was noted at the L5/S1 disc.

Ten months later a surgeon felt that it was in the claimant’s best interest to have a disc replacement, which was a procedure very much in its infancy. A further ten months later, the claimant underwent anterior decompression of the L5/S1 disc and a Maverick disc replacement operation was performed. The claimant was informed that he was the first patient at the hospital to undergo Maverick disc replacement.

After surgery, the claimant complained of pain, right lower limb numbness, lack of mobility, dizzy spells, pain and urinary problems. However, he was still discharged.  He subsequently collapsed at home and while the cause was being investigated, he was admitted to hospital with severe pain. In the absence of improvement, a decompression of the L4/5 (L) and L5/S1 discs was performed.

The claimant continued to suffer falls. His physical and psychological condition deteriorated. He developed spasms which were seizure-like in appearance.

In light of the significant impact upon the claimant’s physical and emotional wellbeing, we were instructed to explore a claim on his behalf.

Our medical expert reported that no reasonably competent surgeon would have advised and performed the decompression and Maverick disc replacement as the claimant was not a suitable candidate for such procedures. There were clear indications of psycho-social factors rendering surgical treatment inappropriate, and conservative, non-surgical treatment had not been fully explored.

But for the two operations, the claimant would have been left with similar symptoms to those being experienced beforehand, but with the likelihood of symptoms being improved as a result of systematic investigation and active non-invasive treatments.  Such treatment would probably have reduced his care needs and given him the potential to return to work.

The claimant suffered a mild to moderate depression, best described as chronic adjustment disorder with depressed mood. He continued to experience chronic pain and abnormal illness behaviours

By reason of the surgery, the claimant’s condition was such that he had very significant care and equipment needs. He had a poor prognosis.

The claim was defended but we were able to negotiate a settlement for the claimant of £145,000 together with payment of his legal costs. This provided some financial security for him and his family and which enabled him to carry on studying with a view to exploring alternative employment options in the future.

Read more about our experience in accident & emergency and orthopaedic & spinal injury cases.

Jonathan Herbert specialises in cases involving A&E and spinal injury. If you would like to ask Jonathan a question about a potential case or you have a general query about medical negligence contact Jonathan on 01892 701226 in confidence.

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