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£250,000 secured for woman who suffered nerve injury due to negligent surgery

A woman has received a six-figure settlement and an admission of liability from the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust after she suffered nerve injury from negligent breast reconstruction surgery at the Leicester Royal Infirmary.

Posted on 23 November 2022

The damage left the patient, who we have called Margaret, with depression and constant pain, and impacting her ability to earn a living.

Margaret was over 60 years of age when she underwent a routine breast cancer screening which detected a pre-cancerous condition, known as ductal carcinoma in situ.

Around the same time, Margaret’s husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and he was given only weeks to live. Margaret opted for a full mastectomy, which was more extreme than may have been required, but was a day-case surgery with a shorter recovery period which allowed her to focus her time and energy on being with her husband during his final days.

Two years after her husband died, Margaret felt ready to explore breast surgery as a way of reconstructing herself and moving forward in her grieving process. A TRAM flap was attempted (surgery involving relocating skin and muscle from the abdomen to the chest) but was not successful.

Margaret was told that the surgery failed because after the free flap was harvested from the abdomen the surgeons were unable to re-establish viable circulation for it within the chest.

Margaret was not unduly upset by the failure in the reconstruction itself as she had given specific instructions to the surgeons to abandon the procedure if any damage to her abdominal muscles appeared likely. The reasoning for this was that she and her husband had been keen swimmers and it was through swimming that she now felt closest to him after his death. However, it became apparent, as the hours passed after the operation, that she had weakness and pain in her right arm, which is her dominant arm. She was reassured that this would resolve, but in the weeks and months after she was discharged, her right arm remained weak, and she had sensory loss and difficulties with movement in her wrist and elbow.

Margaret, who is a celebrated contemporary glassware artist, now has never recovered.  She now lives with reduced function and sensation in her dominant arm and hand, and she is in constant pain. The ongoing symptoms have resulted in a need for support and a consequent lack of independence and also tragically an inability to produce her works of art. All of which has resulted in a diagnosis of depression.

Margaret instructed Leigh Day medical negligence partner Anna Brothers to investigate her legal claim. It was revealed during the investigation that the injury to the arm had in fact been caused through a combination of poor neck positioning in theatre and excessive abduction of the right arm, which resulted in stretching of the brachial plexus. University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust admitted liability for the nerve injury and negotiations resulted in a settlement of £250,000.

Margaret said:
”My life has been made unnecessarily more complicated by the injuries sustained from the surgery. As time from my breast reconstruction surgery passed by, I found significant difficulties in doing the things I loved, for which I had spent years accumulating knowledge and expertise. Friends were appalled that I should be left in this state following an ‘elective’ surgery.
“The resultant financial compensation goes some way to address my future needs I now face from loss of income to practical aids and help to maintain my home.
“The diligence, professionalism and compassion my solicitor showed enabled me, as much as I could, to live my life and not to be consumed by the legal process. I am so grateful for that.”
Anna Brothers said:

“This case was made more tragic in the context of Margaret’s deep grief for the loss of her husband. A rudimentary surgical error resulted in her life being devastated in that she had to abandon or reduce the activities which aided her through her grief such as the renovation project of their home. Also, she was prevented caring for her elderly parents before they died which was extremely difficult for her.

“The injury continues to affect her in the performance of her day-to-day activities and has prevented her from earning a living. It is frustrating that if more care had been taken in preparing her for theatre, she could have avoided all this pain and suffering. I hope that the compensation has gone some way to helping her access treatment and therapies to get her life back.”

If you believe that you have been injured in surgery and you would like free and confidential advice on whether you can bring a clinical negligence claim, contact Anna Brothers on 0207 650 1332 or abrothers@leighday.co.uk 

Anna Brothers
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Anna Brothers

Anna is a specialist medical negligence solicitor

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