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Surgical Errors & Mistakes Compensation Claims

Surgery is a daunting prospect for anyone, irrespective of their condition or age.  Although standards of surgical practice in the UK are generally high, surgical mistakes do happen and are statistically increasing because of pressure on resources and an increase in the total annual number of surgical procedures.  Patients who suffer surgical errors are entitled to know what went wrong and why.       

What is a Surgical Error?

A surgical error happens when there is a mistake during an operation.  For example, operating on the wrong leg or, more commonly, injuring a nerve or artery.  Not all mistakes amount to negligent surgical treatment; only those where a doctor’s care fell below a reasonable standard are likely to lead to a successful surgical malpractice claim and, ultimately, surgical negligence compensation. 

Helping you with a Surgical Negligence Case

Our role, as medical negligence solicitors, is to assess whether treatment is sub-standard. We have a lot of experience and expertise investigating and resolving surgical error claims and have seen many different types of surgical negligence cases, some often extremely complex.  We will review whether your surgical negligence claim is likely to succeed by examining whether the injury you sustained happened because of a negligent surgical error.  We do this by instructing independent medical experts to report on your treatment with sight of your medical records and a statement from you.

The key factor with surgical error cases is to recognise that following most operations a patient will likely experience some pain, discomfort and distress while they recover.  They may have some swelling, fluid leakage, redness and limited mobility in the area operated on, particularly, if the surgical procedure was extensive and took place over a number of hours.  These symptoms should have been clearly explained by the doctor before the surgery took place. If a patient suffers different symptoms to these or their symptoms continue for a long time it may be because of a surgical error.    

Types of Surgical Negligence

Our expert medical negligence solicitors have successfully resolved many surgery compensation claims stemming from sub-standard care under the NHS and from private Hospitals.  These surgery claims, for adults and children, are all different but are likely to fall under one of the following categories:

  • Unintended damage to arteries, nerves or other internal organs.
  • Sub-standard surgery (focusing on the competency of the surgeon and their decisions).
  • Problems with anaesthetic (too much or too little anaesthetic).
  • Failure to monitor a patient’s heart rate and breathing (both during and after surgery).
  • Operating on the wrong limb or internal organ.
  • Performing unnecessary or overly extensive surgery.
  • Failing to remove instruments and swabs from the patient when completing the surgery.
  • Failing to obtain full and proper informed consent for a surgical operation.

Surgical Negligence Case Studies

Surgical errors can, of course, occur during a range of different procedures.  We regularly advise clients in relation to spinal, cardiac and cancer surgical errors as well as other more specialist medical areas such as the eyes, ears, nose and throat and internal organs.  To give you an idea of the range of surgery negligence we have set out examples of cases our solicitors have helped resolve.     

1. Unintended Damage to Arteries, Nerves or other Internal Organs – Mr A.

Mr A underwent key-hole surgery for a suspected cyst near his kidney.  During the procedure his artery was inadvertently severed and he lost 3.5 pints of blood. The operation was converted to open surgery as an emergency to save Mr A’s life.  We were instructed to investigate what had happened and obtained expert evidence that Mr A’s radiology scans (MRI and CT) had been incorrectly interpreted which led the surgeon to wrongly opt for key-hole surgery. Had the surgeon been given the correct radiology information he would have opted for open surgery and Mr A’s severed artery and bleed would have been avoided.  The Hospital admitted this was a surgical error and compensation was paid to Mr A.  

2. Sub-Standard Surgery – Mrs B.

Mrs B was diagnosed with a rare cancerous tumour in her throat.  Instead of referring Mrs B to a specialist cancer surgeon with experience operating on the thyroid, a less experienced general surgeon operated instead.  During the operation, the general surgeon removed the cancerous tumour but also took the decision, without further investigation, to cut a nerve in Mrs B’s neck because he thought it looked suspicious of being cancerous.  Mrs B developed severe and permanent nerve pain as a result and was unable to return to work. 

The surgeon negligence claim was investigated and independent expert evidence confirmed the decision to cut Mrs B’s nerve was sub-standard. Significant compensation for surgical errors was paid to Mrs B to reflect the injury to her nerve and the impact this surgical negligence had had on her life.          

3. Problems with Anaesthetic – Mrs C

Mrs C went into hospital for routine surgery under anaesthetic.  During the operation, it would appear the she did not receive enough anaesthetic.  She felt the surgeon cutting her stomach and she could hear the conversations around her between the doctors and nurses.  She was petrified that she was going to feel the whole surgery but the anaesthetist must have realised that Mrs C did not receive enough anaesthetic and she was given a top up.  Mrs C suffered from flashbacks and nightmares as well as remembering the painful trauma of being cut open but not being able to shout for help. 

Mrs C was compensated for the pain and distress caused to her.

4. Failure to monitor a patient’s heart rate and breathing – Mrs D

Mrs D was taken for emergency surgery for severe bleeding after giving birth to her child.  She was given a general anaesthetic and intubated with a breathing tube.  During the operation a piece of retained placenta was removed and the bleeding stopped.  However, after the surgery had finished, Mrs D’s treating doctor failed to properly monitor her heart rate and breathing.  He removed her breathing tube too early, before the anaesthetic had properly worn off, and Mrs D was unable to breathe on her own and died of a heart attack. 

Mrs D’s young family secured surgical negligence compensation for the loss of their mother.   

5. Operating on the wrong limb or internal organ – Mr E

Mr E underwent routine surgery for hernia repair surgery on the left side of his groin.  The doctor performing the surgery instead started to operate on the right side of Mr E’s groin (where there was no hernia) before realising his error and operating on the correct left side.

Mr E complained of temporary pain and discomfort as well as permanent scars on both sides of his groin.  The Hospital admitted the surgical mistake and paid Mr E compensation.       

6. Performing unnecessary or overly extensive surgery – Mrs F

Following a mammogram Mrs F was told that she had breast cancer when she had, in fact, been mistakenly given the results of another patient.  This incorrect diagnosis affected Mrs F’s relationship with her husband and it affected her employment.  It was only sometime later that Mrs F discovered the hospital had made an error and she had undergone unnecessary surgery because of the mistake made with another patients records.  The hospital admitted fault and Mrs F received unnecessary surgery compensation.

7. Failing to remove instruments/swabs from the patient when completing the surgery – Mr G

Mr G underwent abdominal surgery in December 2015.  Over the course of the next 2 months he suffered bloating of his stomach and difficulty going to the toilet.  After a number of GP appointments, Mr G was referred back to Hospital for investigation.  Radiology imaging then identified a large surgical swab in Mr G’s stomach.  He required a further surgical procedure to remove this.  The Hospital conceded that the swab had been left in Mr G’s stomach and this had caused him pain, discomfort and loss.  Compensation was paid.      

Can I make a Claim for a Surgical Error?

We will assess this for you.  If you are over the age of 18 you usually have three years from the date of the surgery to pursue a surgery error case.  We will help you investigate whether you have suffered an avoidable and negligent surgical error that has caused you an injury and, if so, work with you to make sure you receive compensation to help you carry on with your life.  

How much Compensation will you receive for a Surgical Error Claim?

The amount of compensation you will receive for a surgical negligence claim depends on the injury you have sustained and how this has affected your life.  Medical negligence claims in the UK are designed to put the injured person back in the position they should have been in had they received the appropriate and correct surgical treatment.  Our legal experts will need to carefully assess your current and future medical treatment and care needs as well the losses that you have sustained as a result of the surgical error.  This is a detailed process to make sure you are fully compensated.

Medical negligence claims resulting from surgery errors often result in compensation claims of hundreds of thousands of pounds but this is determined by the extent of injury. 

How can Surgical Errors be prevented?

We strongly believe that a surgical error should only happen once. Our clients tell us time and time again that they want to make sure no one else suffers the same surgical negligence as them.  We stress this to the Hospitals when pursuing surgery claims against them and ask that they feedback and train their staff about these surgical errors so that lessons are learnt and other patients are not injured. 

We aim to work with the Hospitals and clinicians to encourage this process of learning from errors.    

How do I pay for making a Surgery Error Claim?

Many medical negligence claims are paid for by No Win No Fee Agreements.  If you win your surgery negligence claim your legal costs are paid by the Defendant Hospital but if you lose we are not paid. 

This No Win No Fee Agreement removes the risk against you of pursuing litigation.  Further information can be found by clicking on this link to our Pursuing and Funding your Claim webpage. 

Useful Links:

We regularly blog about medical developments and news related to surgical errors. Click on this link for our latest blogs. 

Our cases studies page also has more detailed information about settled medical negligence claims, including surgery error compensation claims. Click here for case studies.

If you, or someone you know, is suffering from a surgical error because of suspected negligent medical treatment and would like to speak with a member of the Minton Morrill medical negligence team, please call on 0113 245 8549 or use our contact form and a member of our team will be in touch

Our Experience of Surgical Error Claims

Scarring Following Breast Reduction Operation

Unfortunately, our client ended up with significant scarring and the scarring required revision which was not anticipated or envisaged following the breast reduction operation. This resulted in a loss of confidence for our client as well as suffering...

Cystoscopy Damages Urethra

J underwent a TVT procedure to deal with her symptoms of urgency and stress incontinence. During the procedure the surgeon damaged the urethra and it became apparent that he applied excessive force as a result of which J developed significant incontinence...

Gall Bladder Removal Complications

C underwent surgery to remove her gall bladder but unfortunately a substandard surgical technique was used which resulted in the division of the bile duct.  Further there was a failure to recognise and treat the injury to the bile duct which was not...
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