The Penningtons Manches LLP clinical negligence team has settled a claim against Heatherwood & Wexham Park Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust for the injuries suffered by a normally fit and active 40-year-old man as a result of a failed knee surgery at Wexham Park Hospital. The case relates to the avoidable failure of an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction of the client’s right knee, where part of a ligament from the leg is used as a graft to reconstruct the damaged knee ligament.
Following the surgery, the client had difficulty walking and developed severe back pain. One of the screws used to fix the new ligament in place fell away. This was not discovered for three months because the surgeon failed to check the x-rays which would have shown the screw misplacement. During the operation to remove the misplaced screw, once it was identified as the cause of the client’s problem, the surgeon failed to check the range of movement in the knee before completing the surgery. When the client’s symptoms worsened, he sought a second opinion. This identified that the reconstruction was not functioning properly and so he underwent further surgery. Although acceptable movement was restored, most of the original graft had to be removed, leaving the client with a grossly unstable knee and still unable to return to his sporting activities. The remaining graft then disintegrated and the client now faces revision surgery. On investigation of the case, it became apparent that there were also issues with the nature of the operation initially advised and the consent procedure used.
Although the defendant trust made an early admission of liability in respect of the position of one of the fixing screws, it continued to deny overall liability. Proceedings were issued late last year and, eventually, a good settlement has recently been reached.
The client hopes the defendant trust will learn from this case so that its surgeons will take proper care to ensure they comply with the trust’s consent procedure; select the appropriate procedure for individual patients; and ensure the outcomes of operations are properly monitored and any errors promptly picked up and rectified.
The clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches LLP is dealing with a significant number of cases involving ACL reconstruction surgery. Camilla Wonnacott, who settled the claim, said: “The same issues repeatedly arise – namely a failure to ensure positioning and movement is correct intra operatively and inadequate follow up. In all the cases we are dealing with, liability has been initially denied and then full admissions made and/or settlement negotiated on a full basis only a long way down the line, after the issue of court proceedings. It does seem therefore, that there is both a failure to learn from mistakes and a significant waste of legal costs in defending cases only to admit them before trial.”