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James Bell: Ruptured Biceps Clinical Negligence Claim

By Principal Lawyer, Clinical Negligence

I have a number of cases involving failure to diagnose or failure to refer patients with ruptured bicep muscles. The Claimants are classically middle aged men undertaking strenuous activity. Rupure of the biceps means that the bicep muscle is detached from the bone at the elbow and pulled up toward the shoulder.There can be an audible  "pop" or snapping sensation when the tendon ruptures.Other symptoms include:

  • Visible bruising in the elbow and forearm
  • Weakness in bending of the elbow
  • A bulge in the upper part of the arm created by the recoiled, shortened biceps muscle - the classic "popeye" sign

Once torn, the biceps tendon cannot heal itself, so urgent referral to an orthopaedic unit is mandatory.Patients must then be offered surgery within a few weeks of the injury.  Any attempt at repair outside this window of opportunity is much more complicated and much less likely to succeed. After this time, the tendon and biceps muscle begin to scar and shorten.  Left without surgical repair, the injured arm will have a 30% to 40% decrease in strength.

Almost all patients who have timely repairs return to normal activities.The negligence of A and E doctors, triage nurses and GPs can include a failure to correctly diagnose the condition at all or a failure to appreciate the severity of the condition.

Even if the condition is diagnosed there can then be a failure to refer the patient on an urgent basis which means that the GP's referral letter sits in a pile of post at the local hospital for several weeks. This means that even if the patient is seen by his GP a few days after the injury and correctly diagnosed, if the referral is not marked urgent then the patient may only be seen by a surgeon 2 or 3 months after the original injury. The patient is then well outside of the optimum treatment time.

These are serious injuries, especially if the dominant arm is affected. The damages awarded for such claims can therefore be very substantial.

James Bell is a Principal Lawyer in the Slater and Gordon's clinical negligence team. If you or a member of your family have a clinical negligence enquiry please call our expert clinical negligence solicitors on 0800 916 9049, fill in our short online claim form and one of our specialist clinical negligence team will be in touch.