Case study: £50k for compartment syndrome claim after unnecessary surgery

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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.

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

Case study: compartment syndrome after surgery

Preparing for knee replacement surgery

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. Doctors suspected deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and a recurrent Baker’s cyst. She was prescribed anticoagulants (blood thinning medication) and discharged.

Concerns after severe pain

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. He 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. However, her recovery was slow; she needed vacuum-assisted therapy and skin grafts and has been left with significant tissue damage and scarring. She also suffers from ongoing discomfort and is less mobile than previously.

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

Claim for compartment syndrome

As part of our medical negligence team’s investigations, they researched possible treatment of Baker’s cysts. They found that surgical removal of these cysts is considered to be inadvisable.

Our expert solicitors 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. They acknowledged 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 was 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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