Our client, a 55 year old woman from Folkestone, Kent, suffered a diathermy injury to her small bowel during the course of a laparoscopic appendectomy, in May 2015, at the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford (a hospital managed by the East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust (“EKH”)).
The diathermy injury resulted in a perforation of the small bowel, but this was not identified at the time of the surgery and resulted in the perforation being left untreated for a period of 3 days, whilst our client remained in hospital, during which time she developed peritonitis and cellulitis as a result of faecal matter leaking into her abdomen.
Eventually, our client was taken back to theatre 3 days after the original surgery, when the perforation was identified. However, due to the extensive infection throughout the abdominal cavity, our client required a bowel resection and a temporary ileostomy.
The ileostomy was reversed 10 months later and, apart from two brief episodes of hospitalisation due to blockage of her bowels, our client is fortunate that she does not continue to suffer with any significant ongoing bowel problems. The only real day to day restriction she has is that her ability to undertake the gardening has been compromised.
She was also caused, as a consequence of the emergency nature of her surgery, a psychological injury in addition to the physical injuries.
Supportive expert evidence was obtained from a colorectal surgeon. His view was that, although the bowel injury from a diathermy burn was not negligently caused, the surgeon had been negligent in failing to identify and treat the perforation during the original operation. Had the surgeon identified the injury at the outset, the bowel could have been repaired and our client would have avoided the ileostomy and the subsequent complications / treatment.
A letter of claim was submitted to EKH, but this was met (rather unexpectedly) with a denial of liability. A detailed rebuttal letter was sent together with an offer to settle, and this prompted EKH to make a satisfactory counter offer of £35,000 which our client accepted.
Alex Tengroth, who had conduct of this case, said “unfortunately, given the number of such claims I have dealt with, it appears all too common for patients to suffer bowel injuries during the course of abdominal surgery, which go unnoticed by the surgeon, and which then lead to much more serious consequences for patients later on. Thankfully, in this particular case, my client has made a reasonable recovery.”