Spinal surgery resulting in injury to a child

Spinal surgery was performed to correct Master B’s kyphoscoliosis of the spine by the insertion of a metal slide. Subsequently he had persistent problems with infection. He required three further operations which culminated in the removal of all the metalwork. His spinal deformity became worse than it was before and the chronic spinal infection may restrict any spinal surgery which he can undergo in the future.

Independent expert medical evidence was obtained from a Spinal Orthopaedic Surgeon who in a written report, was critical of multiple aspects of the care provided. These can be summarised as follows:

  • Master B could have avoided surgery completely had he been assessed appropriately and conservative measures used to address his kyphosis;
  • there was a failure to provide adequate prophylactic antibiotics during and after the surgery;
  • the surgery was undertaken incompetently: the surgeon failed to ensure that the lower right rod was properly secured, and notwithstanding that this was clearly demonstrated on an intra-operative fluoroscope, he failed to take any steps during the operation to secure it;
  • the post-operative x-rays (which were described as entirely satisfactory at the time they were taken) demonstrated separation of the rods from the screws at two points; rather than readmitting Master B for surgery to reconnect the rods, he was discharged from hospital;
  • between his discharge and his eventual readmission, despite the fact that Master B was twice reviewed in Outpatients with a leaking wound, and a further x-ray demonstrating further separation of the rods from the screws, no steps were taken to readmit him for treatment, but instead advice was given that it was safe for him to travel abroad;
  • following Master B’s eventual readmission as an emergency, surgery was delayed for two weeks for no good reason;
  • the surgery was undertaken incompetently: the operating surgeon failed to remove the metalwork completely but instead inserted further metalwork, necessitating the use of tension sutures which would inevitably result in early wound breakdown and the need for further surgery;
  • throughout his treatment of Master B, the surgeon  failed to obtain proper multidisciplinary review of his proposed treatment.

To assist our clinical negligence solicitors in quantifying the value of Master B’s spinal injury claim, expert evidence was obtained from a Spinal Orthopaedic Surgeon and Psychiatrist in relation to his present condition and prognosis. In addition reports were obtained from a Care / Occupational therapist in relation to his need for future care, aids and equipment and therapies.

In response to a detailed letter of claim, solicitors for the Hospital initially denied liability.

However, after much discussion with the Trust’s legal representatives the claim was finally settled on the basis of a substantial six figure sum.

Denise Deakin had conduct of Master B’s case. Denise is a Barrister based in our Southampton office who is dual qualified having trained as a nurse prior to her legal practice. In relation to the case she said: “this case was a difficult case, not only did the Hospital Trust deny liability but it was imperative that we were able to show evidentially the extent to which Master B’s needs had increased in circumstances where he was already severely disabled. The settlement achieved, was in my view a great result and has ensured that the necessary funds are there to provide the additional care and support that he needs to maximise his independence and quality of life.”