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Six-figure sum for woman who was seriously injured during spinal surgery

Jill has been left in permanent severe pain after surgeons botched a spinal operation

Posted on 03 November 2016

Jill was a graphic designer and teacher who loved travelling and outdoor activities, but her life was changed dramatically following a botched spinal operation.

In the early 2000s, Jill began to notice pain in her lower back. Within a few years, her condition had deteriorated to the extent that the pain was spreading down her left leg and beginning to limit her daily life. Jill was referred by her GP to the University Hospital of North Tees, where she was treated with physiotherapy, acupuncture and medication. Sadly, none of this helped.

After further investigations, including an MRI, it was discovered that Jill was suffering from degenerative disc disease but, importantly, the spinal imaging also revealed that she had very narrow lumbar pedicles – stubs of bone which help to hold the spine together and protect the spinal cord.

Jill was referred to a spinal specialist, by which time her pain had worsened and she was struggling to carry out some of the normal tasks of daily living. The specialist recommended that Jill undergo a Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion operation, which was performed a few months later by a more junior member of his surgical team.

Unfortunately, during this operation, the surgeon attempted to insert spinal screws which were too wide for Jill’s very narrow pedicles. As a result, one of Jill’s pedicles was fractured and several screws misplaced, impinging on nearby nerve roots.

Following the operation, Jill experienced new and violent shooting pains in her legs and began to suffer increased back and hip pain. She was not told about the pedicle fracture or the misplacement of the pedicle screws and it was not until several months later, having sought assistance from a neurosurgeon at a different hospital, that she discovered exactly what had happened during the operation.

Subsequent salvage operations and the insertion of a spinal cord stimulator have improved Jill’s terrible burning leg pain, but her back and hip pain have not resolved.  Jill’s life has, sadly, been severely and permanently affected as a result.

Sarah Campbell, medical negligence partner at Leigh Day, acted for Jill in her claim against the University Hospital of North Tees, alleging that the hospital and its staff were negligent in both the planning and the execution of the Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion operation, as well as displaying a total lack of candour by failing to inform Jill of the difficulties they had encountered during her surgery.

Although liability was not formally admitted by the Trust, the case was settled successfully for a 6 figure sum to compensate her for her pain and suffering, and to assist with her care and treatment needs.

Medical negligence solicitor at Leigh Day Sarah Campbell said:

“One of the most disturbing aspects of this case was the failure by the spinal surgeons at the University Hospital of North Tees to inform Jill of the technical difficulties that they had encountered during surgery.  

“This should have been done at the first reasonable opportunity prior to her discharge from hospital. Doctors have a duty of candour towards their patients and, in Jill’s case, they chose not to exercise it with devastating physical and psychological effects for Jill and her family.”