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Patient with ruptured appendix awarded compensation after delay in diagnosis

Woman discharged from A&E, after doctor concluded that her abdominal pain was not due to appendicitis, awarded compensation

Posted on 03 October 2014

The woman, known only as A,  visited her GP in 2009 following 3 days of extreme abdominal pain. Her GP considered that she was likely to be suffering from appendicitis and referred her to hospital for a surgical assessment.
She attended A&E later that day and was assessed by a doctor who concluded that her abdominal pain was not likely to be due to appendicitis. A was sent for an ultrasound scan but was not informed that it would require a full bladder in order to be effective. As a result, the scan did not visualise her appendix so she was told that she definitely was not suffering from appendicitis and was discharged home.

At home, A’s abdominal pain remained severe and it is likely that her appendix perforated 3 days after her discharge. 
She attended A&E on the fourth day and was finally diagnosed with appendicitis. By this time her appendix had ruptured which was life threatening. Abscesses were found because of the sepsis she suffered and she had to undergo a laparotomy. She continued to suffer abdominal pain over the following 2 months and eventually had to undergo an appendectomy in September 2009 to remove the burst appendix.
A suffered severe abdominal pain and distress and had to undergo additional procedures as a result of the delayed diagnosis. The perforation of her appendix led to the formation of a number of abscesses and she is now at risk of additional complications. It is also likely that her fertility has been compromised to the extent that she will no longer be able to conceive naturally. In addition she now has a significantly increased risk of suffering ectopic pregnancy.
The hospital admitted liability after Suzanne White from Leigh Day successfully argued that A's history and symptoms should have been recognised as atypical appendicitis on her first visit to hospital.  In particular her CRP level indicated a significant bacterial infection and this was not acted upon.

It was further admitted that A should not have been discharged without further assessment and should have been kept in hospital overnight for observation. If this had been done, a proper diagnosis would have been carried out during the first hospital visit and the appendix would have been removed at that stage.
As a result the appendix would not have perforated and A would have made a full recovery without any long term effects.

Medical negligence partner Suzanne White, from law firm Leigh Day, who represented A, said:
“This case was particularly shocking as my client had been referred by her GP with suspected appendicitis to hospital, yet the GP and my client’s concerns were completely ignored. The consequences for my client have been devastating and as a young woman have adversely affected her fertility.”