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Six-figure settlement for a woman left with a permanent colostomy

Woman left with a colostomy too risky to repair after arterial damage during bowel surgery

Negligent bowel surgery

16 December 2016

A woman in her sixties, known as N, has settled a claim in medical negligence against a UK NHS Trust for a significant sum. N was left with a permanent colostomy by a surgeon who failed to take sufficient care while operating on her bowel.

N attended her GP when she noticed a change in her bowel habit and that she was losing weight. Her GP ran some tests and found that N was anaemic, so referred her to a local hospital for more investigations.

At the hospital, N had a rigid sigmoidoscopy which found a large, bleeding polyp on her bowel wall. Following a colonoscopy, upper gastrointestinal endoscopy and a CT scan, two more very large polyps were found.

The polyps were not cancerous, but were so large that they almost completely blocked N's bowel.

Because of this, N was offered a sigmoid colectomy. N was told that this would involve removing the area of bowel which contained the polyps and joining the remaining healthy bowel back together.

N was told that if there were any complications during the operation, the surgeons may need to create a temporary stoma, which would involve creating an outlet for N's bowel on her abdominal wall.

She was advised that if this was necessary, it would only be in place for around ten days and she would then be offered surgery to reverse it, joining her bowel back together and returning her to normal function.

On this advice, N decided to go ahead with the surgery.

However, during the operation a Senior Trainee Surgeon accidentally severed an important artery which supplies blood to the rectum and left leg. A Consultant Vascular Surgeon stepped in, but in order to stem the major bleeding the left internal iliac artery had to be tied off.

This significantly and permanently reduced the blood supply to N's rectum and left leg.

Without the necessary blood supply to allow it to heal, the surgeons could not join the bowel back together and so performed a colostomy, creating a stoma on N's abdominal wall.

After her operation N was told what had happened. She asked when she would be able to have her stoma reversed. Her doctors told her that while this was possible, they now advised against it due to the high risk of infection or further injury to the now limited blood supply to her rectum and leg.

Owing to this risk, N elected not to have any further surgery. She will have to live with a colostomy for the rest of her life.

N complained about her care to the hospital and the matter was referred to the NHS Litigation Authority. They admitted that her surgeon had failed to take sufficient care during her operation and that as a result, N had been left with a permanent colostomy. They recommended that N approach Leigh Day to claim compensation for her injuries.

Angharad Vaughan, medical negligence solicitor and associate at Leigh Day, represented N in her claim.

Angharad instructed medical experts in colorectal surgery, orthopaedic surgery, psychiatry, care and occupational therapy to advise about the extent of N's injury and her future needs.

After lengthy negotiations, N's claim was settled for a significant six-figure sum. The final figure was four times that originally offered to N by the Trust in compensation for her injuries.

Angharad Vaughan said:

"My client’s life was changed forever when she underwent bowel surgery which went disastrously wrong. Whilst nothing can turn back the clock, the settlement will go some way to improving her quality of life and will enable her to plan for her future.”

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