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Settlement for woman who woke up during tonsil surgery

Woman received sub-standard care during tonsil removal surgery

Anaesthetic during surgery

23 September 2015

A 23-year-old woman who woke during surgery has received compensation following an admission by the Hospital that she received sub-standard care.

The woman, known only as Suzy, suffered for many years with recurrent tonsillitis.  She was admitted to St Albans City Hospital in November 2013 to undergo a tonsillectomy.  

However, part way through the procedure she woke up and could hear voices all around her and feel pain in her throat.  Paralysed, she couldn’t alert anyone to her pain.

In the Recovery Room, as soon as she was able to, Suzy told the Anaesthetist what had happened, however, he refused to believe her.  

A Hospital enquiry confirmed that there had been six separate failures in her care which resulted in what is known as ‘anaesthetic awareness’.

According to research more than 150 people a year in the UK and Ireland report that they have been conscious during surgery despite being given general anaesthesia.

Led by the Royal College of Anaesthetists and Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland, researchers studied three million operations over a period of one year.

More than 300 people reported they had experienced some level of awareness during surgery.

Whilst most episodes were short-lived and occurred before surgery started or after operations were completed.

But some 41% of cases resulted in long-term psychological harm.

Suzy’s ‘anaesthetic awareness’ left her suffering from flash backs, nightmares, obsessive compulsive disorder and a fear of hospitals.

The hospital Trust admitted liability and a quick and successful settlement achieved.

Kirsten Wall, the lawyer from the medical negligence team at Leigh Day, who represented Suzy, said:

“Whilst incidents such as Suzy’s are rare they still do occur and can be related to drug or machinery errors.

“We would join calls for checklists to be mandatory at the start of operations and a nationwide approach to managing patients who have these experiences.”

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