Negligent delay in diagnosis following surgery

Mrs W. had surgery for bowel cancer. Amongst other procedures, she had surgery to remove an infected tumour.

During the days that followed Mrs W’s condition deteriorated. She complained of light-headedness and abdominal pain, she was perspiring and vomiting. For 2 full days, she showed signs of an abdominal complication that should have been investigated but wasn’t. Finally, she was seen by a consultant and it then became clear that there was a leak close to the operation site, the symptoms were severe and needed immediate attention.

Explorations were carried out, following which Mrs W. was placed in the Intensive Care Unit before being transferred to the ward. She was placed on a course of antibiotics. Once the antibiotics finished Mrs W. almost immediately began to show signs of fever. Signs of infection returned and the results of the test were consistent with intra-abdominal sepsis.

Despite clearly displaying these clinical features, she was discharged just 11 days after surgery without being prescribed any further antibiotics.

Mrs W.’s abdominal wound failed to heal so she went to see her GP who was so concerned he referred her to hospital for an urgent review. Investigations at the hospital showed a large intra-abdominal abscess. The hospital performed a drainage procedure which proved unsuccessful. She was subsequently forced to undergo a third surgery to drain the infection after that. Mrs W’s recovery was slow. She needed a further procedure 7-months later.

It was Mrs W’s case that as a result of the negligent delay in diagnosis following the first surgery for bowel cancer, she suffered a prolonged period of pain and suffering prior to the identification of her anastomotic leak. In addition, she suffered a significant period of pain and discomfort following the recurrent instances of infection. She is now left with an increased risk of a hernia which is a direct consequence of the surgery required to deal with the anastomotic leak.

Furthermore, since Mrs W.’s health deteriorated to such a level during her prolonged period of illness, her ability to work was affected which led to a much-reduced income.

The case settled by mediation when an appropriate amount of damages was agreed.