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Case study: Compartment syndrome after surgery


Compartment syndrome is a potentially serious condition caused by bleeding or swelling within an enclosed bundle of muscles. This restricts blood flow and can cause permanent damage to the muscles and nerves.

Compartment syndrome usually occurs in the legs, feet, arms or hands, but it can occur wherever there is an enclosed compartment inside the body. It’s a potentially limb and life threatening condition.

Do you need help to make a compartment syndrome claim?

Thankfully the condition is rare, but as the case study below demonstrates, we have the expertise to help you if you’ve been affected.

Case study

Our client, Mrs A, suffered from osteoarthritis and was preparing for knee replacement surgery at her local NHS Treatment Centre. During a review however, her surgeon noted a Baker’s cyst behind her knee and she was advised to have this removed first.

Mrs A had surgery to remove the cyst in January 2009 and initially seemed to make a good recovery. However in February she had pain and swelling in her knee after stumbling and was referred to A&E where doctors suspected deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and a recurrent Baker’s cyst. She was prescribed anticoagulants (blood thinning medication) and discharged.

In the following days the swelling in Mrs A’s leg increased and she had severe pain in her calf. She returned to her surgeon who noted tension and tenderness in her left leg and a haematoma in her calf, which he drained. However he felt that there was no clinical evidence of compartment syndrome.

Her surgeon reviewed her again the following day and was concerned that she might have compartment syndrome. He was unable to treat her at the NHS Treatment Centre and referred her to hospital for emergency treatment.

Mrs A had surgery (a fasciotomy) to evacuate the haematoma and release the pressure in the compartment. Her recovery was slow however; she needed vacuum-assisted therapy and skin grafts, and has been left with significant tissue damage and scaring. She also suffers with ongoing discomfort and is less mobile than previously.

Our client required care and support for the rest of 2009. She was also unable to do many of the activities that she had previously enjoyed, such as gardening, walking her dog and exercising.

This case was conducted by medical negligence solicitor Claire Levene who, as part of her investigations, researched possible treatment of Baker’s cysts and found that surgical removal of these cysts is considered to be inadvisable.

Claire also consulted a knee replacement expert who confirmed that surgery to remove the cyst wasn’t actually required in this case. He also advised that the bleed which led to the haematoma wouldn’t have occurred if Mrs A hadn’t had the unnecessary surgery initially.

The hospital trust admitted that the removal of the cyst had been clinically unnecessary and that the cyst would have resolved without surgery after Mrs A had had her knee replacement. Following this admission of liability, we entered into negotiations and the claim settled for £50,000.

Further information

If you’ve suffered complications due to delayed diagnosis or a delay in treating compartment syndrome, we may be able to help.

To speak to a clinical negligence solicitor about medical malpractice or a potential compartment syndrome claim, call us on 0117 325 2929 or complete our online enquiry form.

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