£535,000 for compartment syndrome after negligent treatment

30 June 2023

Jane* suffered bilateral foot drop, loss of tissue and muscle, and has had to undergo a lengthy period of rehabilitation after developing Compartment Syndrome following a long surgical procedure. However, Jane was supported and guided by Charlotte Measures, a Legal Director in our medical negligence team, to make a claim and this resulted in Jane receiving a £535,000 settlement as compensation.

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"Compartment syndrome is an increase in pressure inside a muscle, which restricts blood flow and causes pain. The muscles in the lower legs and forearms are commonly affected. There are two types of compartment syndrome: acute and chronic. Acute is when the symptoms begin suddenly as a result of an injury or if a bandage or plaster cast is too tight. Chronic relates to circumstances where the symptoms arise gradually and disappear when resting, for example, after exercising.  

If the severe pain occurs suddenly, it can be serious and require treatment as soon as possible to relieve the pressure in the muscle. Compartment syndrome is described as a medical emergency because an individual could develop ischaemia and eventually necrosis without quick and proper treatment. Ischaemia is where blood and oxygen flow to the tissue gradually stops, and your cells and nerves start to die. Ischaemia progresses to necrosis, and this can occur in a matter of hours. Necrosis can eventually result in organ failure or disease progression; currently, there is no cure."

The challenges Jane faced

Jane developed compartment syndrome in her legs after undergoing gynaecological surgery to address symptoms associated with VIN3 disease and perineal disease. It was alleged that appropriate measures to prevent the risk of compartment syndrome developing were not taken during the 8 hour long surgical procedure and that there were delays, post-surgery, in diagnosing the compartment syndrome. Although Jane was returned to theatre for emergency fasciotomy (a limb-saving procedure to restore loss of circulation), she suffered bilateral foot drop, loss of tissue and muscle and had to undergo a lengthy period of rehabilitation.  

As a result of the rehabilitation process and the reoccurring infections Jane experienced, many aspects of her life were put on hold. She previously worked full-time in the ambulance service and hoped to make the most of promotion opportunities. Jane also enjoyed being active, taking part in social activities and spending time with her daughter. However, she had to have over six months off work, and when she returned, she could only work reduced hours and duties. The sudden shift in Jane’s life understandably caused her a lot of stress. Her loss of earnings, mobility, and independence impacted many aspects of her personal life. Jane now relies on her partner for support, and she suffers from high levels of pain and fatigue. Jane also developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety and attends psychotherapy sessions to try to rectify her mental health.  

How we helped to settle the claim

With the support and guidance of Charlotte Measures, Jane made a claim against the Hospital Trust. Together, they argued that there was a breach of duty, and the gynaecology team failed to take appropriate precautions during the operation to prevent Jane from developing compartment syndrome. It was also argued that the delay in returning Jane to the theatre for an emergency fasciotomy resulted in her permanent injury and disability.  

The Trust refused to accept that the gynaecology team failed to take appropriate precautions during the initial reconstructive surgery. However, despite the Trust denying liability throughout the case and attempting to divert blame, Charlotte ensured that they acknowledged that the ideal time frame to return Jane to the theatre was 3 hours earlier than they did.   

Charlotte secured expert reports from independent experts in the fields of gynaecology, anaesthesia, vascular surgery, orthopaedics, physiotherapy, care and occupational therapy, orthotics and psychiatry. As a result of Charlotte’s expertise, Jane’s trust, and both of their drive to succeed, a £535,000 settlement was agreed.

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"Charlotte kept me up to date with how my case was progressing and what was going to happen next... Whilst looking for a solicitor to take my case, I came across a number of medical negligence firms that didn't know what compartment syndrome was which was very worrying, however, Higgs LLP had a detailed knowledge of what it was and the impact that it can have on a persons life..." 

*not her real name 

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