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Six-figure settlement reached for woman who suffered a ruptured bowel following C-section

A woman, who we have called Nina, has received £175,000 in compensation in a legal claim against Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust after they failed to diagnose and treat her bowel obstruction.

Posted on 13 June 2024

Nina gave birth to her first child aged 29 in early 2019 via caesarean section (C-section) due to complications during labour. As a result of the operation, Nina developed a rare complication called acute colonic pseudo-obstruction (ACPO), meaning that the nerves in her large bowel (colon) became paralysed,  stopped working, and the colon filled with fluid and air.

In the days after her C-section, Nina was kept in hospital whilst her daughter received antibiotics. During this period, Nina developed increasing symptoms of ACPO, including abdominal pains, bloating, and difficulties going to the toilet. Three days after her C-section, Nina was sent for a CT scan which showed that her bowel was ‘significantly dilated’, a sign of bowel obstruction which indicates that the bowel is at risk of perforating, due to it being stretched and much larger than it should be. The scan was only reviewed by a junior surgeon who advised that she be given laxatives and enemas.

Nina’s symptoms continued and, five days after her C-section, she became life-threateningly ill. An obstetrician recognised that she was displaying signs of a perforated bowel, and she was rushed for an urgent scan and emergency surgery. During the operation, the surgeons found perforation of the bowel, associated ischaemia of bowel tissue (lack of blood supply to the bowel, which can lead to tissue death) and a serious infection in her abdomen. While the bowel was repaired, it was not possible to reconnect it into the intestinal system, which meant the surgeons had to create a stoma (an opening through the abdomen to allow bowel contents to leave the body via a stoma bag).

After a period in intensive care and a few weeks in hospital, Nina was discharged. However, she continued to miss out on early bonding time with her newborn daughter while she recovered from her life-saving surgery. She also had to adapt to living with a stoma bag. Once her bowel had sufficiently recovered, Nina had the stoma reversed, allowing her to regain normal bowel function, but due to hospital delays, in part caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, this did not take place until around 18 months after her initial surgery.

While Nina has made a good physical recovery from her bowel injury, she has been left with significant scarring on her stomach, which led to her developing an incisional hernia, and has suffered from symptoms of depression and PTSD. She was also diagnosed with infertility, likely as a result of damage in the form of adhesions around her fallopian tubes caused by the perforation, and so she and her partner needed IVF to conceive their second child. Nina is due to undergo further surgery in 2024 to repair her incisional hernia and this needs to be done via open, rather than keyhole surgery, so it will involve another length recovery process.

Nina instructed medical negligence solicitor Rebecca Ridgeon to bring a claim against the Trust and, following Leigh Day’s investigation, the Trust admitted that there was a negligent failure to diagnose obstruction of the colon on the CT scan which she had three days after the C-section. If the obstruction had been recognised at that time, Nina could have been treated with a simple endoscopic decompression procedure, which would have reduced the dilation of the bowel, prevented perforation and restarted normal bowel function.

The settlement of £175,000 compensates Nina not only for the experience of her bowel injury, emergency surgery and 18 months living with a stoma, but will allow her to undergo further IVF treatment to complete her family, undergo the hernia repair operation as well as plastic surgery to improve the appearance of her scarring, and to undergo psychological therapy. 

Nina said:

“I am very pleased that the Trust accepted that the treatment I received after my daughter’s birth in 2019 was negligent, and that I have received compensation to allow me to have the treatment I need to complete my family and to move on with my life after such a traumatic experience”. 

Rebecca Ridgeon said:

“Nina’s ordeal after her bowel perforated was horrific, and it was made all the more difficult by having to learn to manage a stoma at the same time as being a new mum. The impact of the Trust’s negligence, which they admit was avoidable, still has a daily impact on Nina’s life and I am really pleased that a settlement was reached just in time for the arrival of her second child. The settlement will allow Nina to have the treatment she needs to deal with the ongoing impact of the negligence and to continue to enjoy life with her young family.”

Rebecca Ridgeon (1)
Birth injury Brain injury Cerebral palsy Spinal injury

Rebecca Ridgeon

Rebecca Ridgeon is an associate solicitor in the medical negligence department.

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