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Mistake during routine gall bladder surgery leaves man with on-going health problems

Significant settlement for man who had to undergo extensive surgery following medical negligence

Robert started to experience abdominal pain in 2011 and was diagnosed with a gallstone in 2012. He put himself on a very strict no-fat diet to control the pain but by 2013 his pain was so bad his GP referred him to his local Hospital for surgery.

Robert therefore underwent a laparoscopic cholecystectomy, surgery to remove his gallbladder, in August 2013. Robert was told he would be treated as a day case with the possibility he may have to remain in hospital for 1 night.

During surgery, it was noted that Robert had unusual anatomy so a more senior surgeon was called for who said everything was fine and to carry on. The senior surgeon then noticed a bile leak and mistakenly thought it was only small leak from an unimportant part of Robert’s anatomy so simply stitched it up and closed Robert up.

Unfortunately the bile leak was much more serious than the senior surgeon had realised and after the surgery Robert was left with significant pain and had a drain attached to him to drain the bile which was collecting in his abdomen.

Robert remained in hospital with severe abdominal pain however it wasn’t until eight days later that anything was done. Robert underwent an ultrasound scan which showed a large collection of fluid, possibly bile, still in his abdomen so two days later a stent was inserted in the hope that it would stop the bile leak but sadly Robert became increasingly unwell with abdominal pain and vomiting.

Eventually, 21 days after his initial surgery, Robert was transferred to another hospital for specialist treatment. One and a half litres of bile was drained from his abdomen and a specialist drain was put in place. Robert was finally able to go home, five weeks after his initial operation, with the drain still in place.

Robert remained in pain and was re-admitted to hospital in January 2014 as his drain had become blocked and underwent a hepatico-jejunostomy to reconstruct his biliary tree. He was kept in hospital for a further three weeks then in April 2014 he developed a chest infection related to his on-going problems. He was discharged the same month but has since developed two hernias as a direct result of the negligence and has had to undergo surgical removal of the stent which was causing him lots of problems.

Robert has suffered from many complications as a result of the bile leak including abdominal adhesions which have impacted on his ability to carry out his job meaning he will have to retire earlier than he planned.

Hannah Bottomley, clinical negligence solicitor at Potter Rees Dolan, acted on Robert’s behalf and successfully argued that the standard of Robert’s initial gallbladder surgery was poor; the senior surgeon failed to identify a major bile leak and simply sewed over it. It was also argued, post-operatively, that the hospital failed to identify the seriousness of Robert’s condition and waited over 20 days before transferring him to a specialist unit.

If surgery had been carried out properly, Robert would have been home within 24 hours and back to work within two weeks. Instead, he has had ongoing pain, several further surgeries, developed two hernias and is facing the prospect of retiring early or losing his business which he has worked hard over the last 30 years to develop.

The defendant hospital admitted liability in full and we were successful in achieving a settlement figure of £152,000 for Robert plus a letter of apology.

Hannah Bottomley said:

Gall bladder removal surgery is a relatively common procedure with approximately 50,000 patients undergoing this surgery each year in the UK. Unfortunately for Robert, the surgeons failed to spot the damage they had caused and compounded the problem by taking so long to get him specialist help.

This has left Robert having to live with pain and limitations which all could have been avoided with proper care. Whilst this settlement cannot make up for what Robert has been through, I am pleased that the NHS recognised the extent of his loss and we were able to recover such a significant figure for him.

The names and identifying details of the client have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals involved.

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