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Settlement after failure by doctor to diagnosis osteomyelitis infection

A woman was left in severe pain when a Consultant failed to diagnose osteomyelitis

Posted on 08 August 2014

A 62 year old woman from London has secured compensation from a  private Consultant Urological Surgeon, and the Royal Free Hampstead NHS Trust, for failures to diagnosis and treat severe osteomyelitis infection of the pubic bone.

After suffering from urinary stress incontinence and repeated urinary infections Mrs R was advised by the surgeon to undergo a Burch Colposuspension procedure (when the bladder is lifted and pinned up) to help relieve her symptoms. The operation was performed at the Royal Free Hospital on 7 July 2008.

Mrs R was discharged home on 12 July 2008 but continued to suffer a significant amount of pain in the pelvic area which extended into her legs. 

Throughout July and August Mrs R repeatedly contacted the surgeon concerned about her ongoing pelvic pain which by the end of July was causing her difficulty walking. She was seen twice by him and admitted to hospital once but despite her complaints of significant pain at no point did the surgeon, who carried out the operation, examine her or investigate the cause of her symptoms.

When, after approximately two months Mrs R’s symptoms were continuing, she did undergo a CT scan. This scan was inconclusive but again the surgeon responsible for the procedure did not take any further action to try to find the source of Mrs R’s pain.

On 7 October 2008 Mrs R attended the Accident & Emergency department at Royal Free Hospital because of the level of pain she was in, a high temperature and an inability to pass urine at all.  She was diagnosed with a urinary infection and on 20 October 2008, the surgeon carried out another surgical procedure, which did nothing to improve Mrs R’s symptoms. 

Finally, in despair Mrs R sought a second opinion which led to MRI scan which revealed osteomyelitis of the pubic bone.  On 29 October 2008, Mrs R was admitted to Barnet Hospital where she underwent surgery to drain an abscess and debride the pelvic bone. She remained in hospital for 5 weeks and was treated with intravenous antibiotics.  Mrs R remained on antibiotics after her discharge and continued to suffer significant pain. 

Although the pain has improved following surgery Mrs R has been left with ongoing pain which af-fects her ability to sit, stand and walk. She also suffers from pubic bone tenderness which affected her relationship with her husband and adjustments had to be made at work to enable her to continue working. 

Nicola Wainwright and Suleikha Ali, lawyers in the clinical negligence team at Leigh Day, pursued a claim on Mrs R's behalf in respect of the failure of the surgeon to properly investigate the source of her pelvic pain and diagnose and treat her osteomyelitis earlier. A claim was brought against both the surgeon in his private capacity and the Royal Free Hampstead NHS Trust where he provided NHS care to Mrs R.  

Leigh Day obtained expert medical evidence which confirmed that the care Mrs R received was negligent and had she received competent treatment in August to September 2008, she would have had an MRI scan which would have shown her severe infection before it spread to the pelvic bone. This could have been treated with antibiotics. Mrs R would not have had to undergo the extensive surgery that she did at the end of October 2008 and would not have been left with her ongoing symptoms of pain, which sadly our experts advised would continue for the rest of her life. 

Nicola Wainwright, partner in the clinical negligence team who secured compensation for Mrs R said:

“Our client felt incredibly let down by the surgeon who failed to take her complaints of pain seriously. 

“He behaved as if she was making a 'fuss about nothing', when in fact she was developing a serious infection. Even once the osteomyelitis was diagnosed he did not acknowledge his mistakes.  

“However, in settling the claim he agreed to pay sufficient compensation to cover the expenses Mrs R has incurred because of her injuries and to enable her to pay for pain management treatment to minimise the long term effect of her symptoms on her."