Penningtons Manches Cooper’s clinical negligence team has recently settled a claim arising from a failure to treat a severe bone infection. Our client suffered significant pain, underwent several operations and will likely require a knee replacement in the future, as a result of the negligent medical care.
In June 2016, our client, a 26 year old man, injured his knee playing rugby. His GP referred him to a private orthopaedic surgeon at the Spire Liverpool Hospital, where he was diagnosed with an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear and underwent reconstruction surgery in November 2016.
Within a month of this surgery, our client returned to his surgeon worried that he had developed infection in his knee. He returned several more times over the following months reporting symptoms of infection. In May 2017, the plastic screw in his knee was found to be protruding through the wound.
A scan in August 2017 confirmed that the ACL graft was infected and had detached from the knee. The private surgeon at this point referred our client to another orthopaedic surgeon, who undertook specialist bone infection work, at the Royal Liverpool Hospital.
Our client was placed on an urgent waiting list. However, despite the urgency, he did not undergo further surgery to treat the infection until January 2018. This was over a year from the infection first developing. While surgery was successful, our client still required a bone graft to fill the holes in the bone caused by the infection.
In May 2018, our client underwent bone graft surgery and was told that this was a success. He was concerned about the standard of the treatment he had received so far, and so he asked to be referred to another knee specialist. A further scan confirmed that the bone graft had not taken. He was then booked in for a further bone graft and ACL reconstruction, which took place in February 2020. He is likely to require further surgery in the future.
We obtained independent orthopaedic and microbiology expert evidence, from which it became clear that there had been a failure to prescribe adequate antibiotics; a failure to undertake appropriate imaging or tests; a failure to seek input from a microbiologist; and a failure to operate in an appropriate timeframe when the infection became apparent.
These repeated failures spanned a period of over 12 months, during which our client suffered severe damage with long-term consequences.
Had the infection been treated appropriately, we alleged that our client, previously a fit and active young man, would have been left with a fully functioning knee. He would have avoided several surgeries, including debridement (removal of dead tissue), the bone grafting procedure and the ACL repair surgeries. As it is, his mobility, independence and career prospects have all been adversely affected. He has significant scarring from his repeated surgeries and suffered a psychiatric injury. He is likely to need knee replacement surgery in the future.
These allegations were put to Spire Healthcare Ltd and the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. The defendants admitted that there were failings by the private surgeon in treating our client’s infection and that these failures caused him a worse outcome. They did not admit that the full extent of our client’s injuries would have been avoided had the infection been treated promptly. However, after some negotiations, a very pleasing financial settlement was reached.
Infection following surgery is a relatively common, recognized risk and does not necessarily indicate that medical treatment has fallen short of satisfactory. However, in this case the repeated failures to properly treat this infection led to severe, lifelong consequences for our client. It is hoped that his compensation will go some way to providing the assistance he will need in the future.