An inquiry conducted by North Bristol NHS Trust has revealed that over 50 patients at Southmead Hospital in Bristol should have been offered alternatives to mesh surgery. Instead, at the recommendation of Dr Anthony Dixon, a colorectal surgeon who is now suspended, they underwent a controversial type of bowel surgery using mesh that was unnecessary and that has left many women with severe pelvic pain.
Dr Dixon was suspended by the trust in 2017 after concerns were first raised. He was also working at the private Spire Hospital in Bristol at the time. Dr Dixon pioneered a technique known as laparoscopic ventral mesh rectopexy (LVMR), whereby artificial mesh is used to lift prolapsed bowels. The trust reviewed cases between 2007 and 2017 and identified that 57 patients should have been offered conservative management of their symptoms before surgery.
Dr Chris Burton, medical director of North Bristol NHS Trust, said: “I want to apologise to all patients who have received surgery unnecessarily – it is unacceptable and we are taking it extremely seriously.” Dr Dixon has not commented and is currently the subject of interim conditions of practice while the General Medical Council carries out a full investigation.
Elise Bevan, a solicitor in the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches, says: “We are representing women who were operated on by Dr Dixon at Spire Hospital. The outcome of our own investigation is similar to the trust’s. We have identified that Dr Dixon failed to appreciate properly the extent of the problems our clients had, that he investigated these problems using inappropriate and flawed techniques and that he wrongly recommended complex surgery when conservative treatment would have resolved their problems.
“As a result of the unnecessary surgery, which involved fixation of artificial mesh internally, our clients have been left with significant problems including chronic pain and the need for further surgery to remove the mesh. One of our clients has ended up needing a stoma. Whilst we welcome the trust’s recent announcement, it will of course cause a great amount of worry for patients of Dr Dixon, particularly those who were managed privately and would not have been part of the inquiry. We understand that Spire is conducting a similar exercise and we hope that the findings are published openly. As there are time limits for bringing claims, we would urge anyone who is concerned about the treatment provided by Dr Dixon to contact us as soon as possible. We have an experienced team of solicitors who understand the issues involved and are caring and sympathetic.”