Man Awarded Compensation for a Pulmonary Embolism after Surgery

A man who was not advised of the potential consequences of a hernia operation has been awarded £17,500 compensation for a pulmonary embolism after surgery.

David Spencer (49) attended Hillingdon Hospital on 1st February 2010 for routine surgery to repair a hernia. The operation was supposed to be conducted by laparoscopy but, due to excessive bleeding obscuring the surgeon´s view, it was completed by an open procedure.

David was considered sufficiently recovered to be discharged from the hospital the same evening, but a few days later he started to suffer aching calf muscles. On his return to work as a property services manager on 15th February, David´s calves were still aching and he noticed that he was short of breath when climbing stairs.

As he had been unable to take much exercise due to his hernia problems, David attributed the pains in his calves and his shortness of breath to a general lack of fitness; but, when his breathlessness failed to improve, David contacted his GP, who advised him to return to the hospital.

On 23rd April, David attended the A&E Department at Hillingdon Hospital and was admitted after being diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism. He was treated with blood thinning medication and kept in hospital for five days until his condition improved.

Following his discharge, David sought legal advice and claimed compensation for a pulmonary embolism after surgery; alleging that he had not been informed of the full risks associated with the procedure before being asked to give his consent.

The Hillingdon Hospital NHS Trust acknowledged that David had not been specifically warned about the risks of deep vein thrombosis developing after his operation, but contested that he had been told to report “any problems” that he experienced in the weeks and months after his initial discharge.

As a result of the dispute of David´s failure to report the pain in his calves to either his GP or his consultant, the claim for compensation for a pulmonary embolism after surgery went to the High Court, where it was heard by His Honour Judge Collender QC.

Judge Collender was told that a settlement of compensation for a pulmonary embolism after surgery amounting to £17,500 had been agreed, but that the Hillingdon Hospital NHS Trust wanted a 50 percent reduction of the settlement to account for David´s contributory negligence.

After hearing that David that been fitted with pneumatic boots during the surgery – a device that is intended to improve a patient’s blood circulation so as to reduce the risk of a patient suffering from deep vein thrombosis – the judge concluded that the hospital had been aware of the risk of a pulmonary embolism, but this information had not been passed onto David before he was asked to sign the consent form.

Judge Collender ruled that as David had not been informed of the risk of deep vein thrombosis, and that David believed his calf pains were unconnected to his surgery, he could not be considered to have contributed to the extent or severity of his injury. The judge therefore upheld the agreed £17,500 settlement of compensation for a pulmonary embolism after surgery.