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Surgery and Surgical Error Claims

Every day, thousands of surgical operations take place successfully in NHS and private hospital operating theatres across England and Wales. Understandably, whether their surgery is major or minor, patients expect adequate treatment and a minimum standard of care. Naturally, it is reasonable to suppose that doctors and nurses have the necessary training and skills.

Giving one’s consent to undergo surgery involves considerable trust on the part of the patient. Indeed, in some cases, it can be a life or death decision. However, it is also a fact that operations have an inherent risk – as documented in media reports, even relatively minor surgical procedures can go wrong.

Thankfully, in the vast majority of operations and courses of treatment, the standard of care provided is excellent, good or at least acceptable. Despite these positive results, though, sometimes the outcome is not what the patient expected; the condition may even worsen. There could be unfortunate and unavoidable complications, accidental injuries or even negligence cases in which the surgical team fail to meet the required standards.

Irrespective of whether such failures are due to incompetence, negligence, an oversight, a temporary lapse, a genuine mistake and whether the anaesthetist, nursing staff or surgeon and doctors are to blame, the impact may be life-changing. Individuals’ lives could undergo sudden and permanent change.

Although compensation payments do not change what has happened in the past or heal mental or physical injuries, a successful claim will make daily life more manageable. In particular, compensation aims to meet rehabilitation costs, travelling expenses and lost earnings while also providing ongoing medical care. Additionally, there might be a need for adjustments to the home.

Contact one of our specialists on 0333 987 4161 if you feel you have suffered due to surgical error.

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Common Surgical Errors and Compensation Claims

Some examples of errors that lead to successful compensation claims include:

Also, other surgical mistakes might inflict lasting consequences and give rise to a valid claim for surgical compensation. Here, we list some of the most prevalent. Notably, this list is not exhaustive. If you consider that your health has been affected by a surgical error and poor quality treatment or care, we suggest that you contact our expert legal advisers to assess your case and offer you free initial advice.

Hip Replacement Surgery and Severed Nerves

During hip replacement operations, the sciatic, genitofemoral and obturator nerves may suffer injury due to surgical incision, cauterisation or stretching. Sciatic nerve injuries are more common than the surgical trauma of the femoral or obturator nerves

Although surgeons strive to avoid problems during hip surgery, exposed nerves could rub against the knee bone. As a result, the stretched nerves might lead to postoperative weakness in the associated foot. Fortunately, recovery is usually spontaneous, though it can take months. At such times, specialists might recommend a foot splint or support. Also, some numbness might be present around the incision.

Knee Replacement Surgery and Nerve Damage

As excruciating as untreated knee pain can be, surgical replacement may itself cause injury to the surrounding nerves and blood vessels. Although most knee operations have a positive outcome, nerve damage can occur on rare occasions, as distinct from the usual level of numbness during post-operative recuperation.

Fortunately, most cases of nerve damage improve within six to twelve months as the nerves regenerate themselves. Additionally, there might be some numbness at the front of the knee and the outer sides of the incision (over the kneecap). Here, again, sensation usually returns within a few months. However, the effects of knee operations may include weakness and, in the worst cases, surgery might not resolve the original joint pain.

In 2013, researchers carried out a study (Footnote 1) that evaluated the progress of 73 patients who had undergone knee replacement operations (also known as total knee arthroplasty, or TKA) in the year 2011. The resulting report noted that the saphenous nerve is prone to injury during arthroplasty. Correspondingly, more than a quarter (27 percent) of patients subsequently noticed some numbness that decreased over time but did not always disappear completely. Consequently, the report’s authors recommended that medical teams adequately discuss this possible effect in patient consultations before operations.

Hernia Surgery Damage to the Inguinal and Genitofemoral Nerves

Surgery to repair a hernia (also known as herniorrhaphy) could damage the inguinal nerve that connects the lumbar region to the groin area. In fact, the ilioinguinal nerve is one of the most commonly injured during hernia repair operations, whereas the femoral branch of the genitofemoral nerve is the area most at risk during laparoscopy procedures.

Surgery in the region of the genitofemoral nerve may affect the lower limbs. This nerve system varies significantly from person to person as it passes through the abdomen and divides into trunks to transmit sensation throughout the front parts of the upper thighs. According to a critical study published in 2015, some experts consider the nerve one of the most variable in the lumbar plexus or lower spinal region: it follows different routes and some branches do not even exist in every individual. A study of two hundred anatomical subjects found that the nerve is a single trunk in approximately four-fifths of humans, but forms separate branches in the remainder. Such variation and diversity might complicate surgical planning and procedure and increase the possibility of nerve injury.

Damage to Nerves from Surgery to Remove Tumours

In surgical procedures to excise (remove) tumours, nerves might be damaged or cut as part of the procedure. Excision of a tumour causes a loss of feeling (numbness), localised tingling or changes in sensation. Depending on the exact type of operation, the skill of the surgical team and the individual patient, nerve damage can appear long after the operation itself and may last a long time.

Recent statistics suggest that orthopaedic surgery and general surgery account for over a quarter (26 percent) of medical negligence claims including surgical errors. If you have been affected in this way, you may wish to consider claiming compensation.

Claiming Compensation for Surgical Errors

If the medical staff do not properly explain the surgery, its inherent risks and the necessary post-surgical care procedures, perhaps due to workload, tiredness or periodic drops in quality standards, there could be unexpected negative consequences. Proper information is essential for the patient to provide informed consent.

If you think your health has suffered due to an error during surgery, the first step is to arrange an initial consultation to review the history of the case and to evaluate the circumstances. Then, our expert solicitors will offer honest and realistic advice regarding a possible claim for surgical errors.

For a surgical error claim to be successful, lawyers have to prove that the medical team provided care in a manner that dropped below reasonably standards. Often, the legal arguments involve highly technical points and intricate detail. Cases characteristically take considerable time to reach a hearing, due to the weight of evidence on both sides. Finally, expert testimonies could well be required to support the claim.