Negligent shoulder surgery

Many people suffer from pain in their shoulder when they raise their arm, which is caused by the bones and tendons in their shoulder rubbing against each other. We acted for a lady who had been suffering from such discomfort and restriction in her right shoulder – she had been recommended for an operation to trim some of the bone and increase space for the tendons (arthroscopic subacromial decompression and acromioclavicular joint excision).

Following the operation, she began to suffer from severe pain in her right shoulder and her collar bone (clavicle) looked deformed. Her osteopath suspected she had developed acromioclavicular subluxation (when the joint partially dislocates) in view of the pain and because physiotherapy was not having the desired effect. When she was reviewed at consultant level, it was noted that she had lost the function in some of her ligaments and this was recognised as being a “complication of the surgery”.

We argued that this type of ligamentous injury is not a recognised complication of the procedure, and should not occur if the procedure is performed with reasonable care and skill. The Trust denied liability and proceedings were issued. In the Defence, the hospital trust admitted liability for one of the main allegations but continued to deny the rest. We temporarily suspended the court process to allow us to try and reach a settlement, however, the trust did not make any suitable offers.

Other issues in dispute were the claim for future care and treatment, the two parties’ orthopaedic experts disagreeing over the merits of osteopathic treatment and whether her level of function was likely to deteriorate. We continued to fight our client’s corner and we managed to achieve a good settlement for this lady without having to proceed any further down the court timetable.

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