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Clinical Negligence specialist Paul Sankey discusses surgical error that led to life-threatening Haemorrhage

31 May 2012

My client underwent an Endoscopy under sedation to investigate Gastric Ulcers. During the procedure the Surgeon saw what he thought was a rare form of Tumour, a Gastro-Intestinal Stromal Tumour, and attempted to take a biopsy. In fact it was a Varix (a swollen blood vessel). In removing the tissue the surgeon caused a massive and life-threatening Haemorrhage. This was an extremely frightening experience for a conscious patient.

Attempts to control the Haemorrhage were only partially successful and my client was transferred first to ITU and then to another hospital for surgery to repair the blood vessels. Although surgery was successful, a few days after discharge my client developed Empyema, an infection of the Pleura, the area surrounding the lungs. He was readmitted to hospital and had to undergo further major surgery to his chest to remove infected tissue - Thoracotomy and Decortication. Further investigations revealed an underlying clotting disorder - Essential Thrombocythemia - which was responsible for Thrombosis (blockage) of the portal vein (part of the blood supply of the Liver) and the underlying cause of his Varices. He was unable to return to his work for over a year. He worked part-time for 6 months, gradually increasing his hours to full-time. However he continued to suffer from pain, restricted movements and fatigue and after a year retired on medical grounds. Investigating liability was complex because of my clients underlying medical condition and reports were obtained from experts in Surgery, Haematology, Hepatology and Psychiatry. In response to a letter of claim liability was admitted. The claim was resolved after the issue of proceedings, the Defendants paying significant damages. Many of our clients have benefited from the Rehabilitation Code. Under the Rehabilitation Code solicitors have a duty to consider in consultation with the medical team whether there is an immediate need for rehabilitation, drugs, aids, adaptations, additional mental health treatment, adjustments to employment that would help alleviate problems caused by the injury.

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