Clinical Negligence

Patient suffers acute heart failure following negligent management of post operative complications

This case study demonstrates the expertise of our Clinical Negligence team who obtained £15,000 compensation for a woman when her husband died from post operative complications following a right total hip replacement.

The deceased suffered an acute deterioration with hypoxia in the early hours of the morning two days after undergoing a right total hip replacement. A working diagnosis of a pulmonary embolism was made and a chest x ray was requested but was not performed until nearly 10 hours later. This identified gross pulmonary oedema and a diagnosis of a fluid overload was made. Diuretic therapy was given, but  the deceased condition deteriorated overnight, his breathing becoming increasingly laboured and tragically ended in his suffering a cardiac arrest three days after surgery from which he did not recover.

A post mortem confirmed the cause of death was left ventricular failure due to pulmonary fat emboli and ischaemic heart disease.

The claimant made an NHS complaint in which the trust acknowledged that the failure to provide a reasonable standard of care was unacceptable, following which she instructed us.

Our expert confirmed that there was a delay in performing a chest x ray soon after the deceased’s condition deteriorated. This would have led to a diagnosis of pulmonary oedema and administration of diuretic therapy. He was also critical of the failure to transfer the deceased to a high dependency bed for further assessment and treatment, despite the persistent hypoxia and diagnosis of severe pulmonary oedema with underlying myocardial infarction. He also identified a failure by the hospital to arrange for any assessment by a senior physician and to monitor his fluid balance adequately. He concluded that the deceased’s left ventricular failure and pulmonary oedema were caused by excess post operative intravenous fluids, the onset of atrial fibrillation (which had been missed)and fat emboli. Had appropriate monitoring and treatment been instituted, the deceased would have survived.

We prepared a schedule of loss which was served together with proceedings, two days after which we made an offer to settle which was finally agreed at a figure of £15,000.

This seems little recompense for the loss of a dearly loved husband, but under the current legal system, monetary awards for the loss of a loved one are not generous if the deceased was not working. However, this spared the claimant the anxiety of the further litigation process and provided her with a sense of closure.

We have one of the largest and most experienced specialist medical negligence teams in Southern England including London. Our team of highly experienced lawyers has the depth and range of expertise essential in this sensitive and often complex area of law. Our clinical negligence team is very proud to be ranked Number 1 in both the Legal 500 and Chambers and Partners UK.

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