Orthopaedics part 3 – Foot surgery, orthopaedics and compensation claims
Common medical issues in orthopaedic compensation claims
Another common area of Orthopaedic treatment concerns bunions (known medically as “hallux valgus”). Where bunions occur, toes overlap and become painful, affecting a person’s ability to walk normally or even wear normal footwear. The more severe cases lead to referred pain in the ankle or knees.
Another common complaint is “hammer toe”, where the toes point downwards as a result of shortening of the muscles in the feet due to bunion deformity. It is also quite common in patients with diabetes.
A podiatrist may recommend surgery to treat bunions, which are quite common in patients who are middle aged and elderly. The surgery is known as an osteotomy.
Osteotomy involves the excision of a wedge of bone to allow the toes to realign into a natural position, using screws to fix them into place.
Surgeons who fail to exercise reasonable care and skill can sometimes cut away too much bone, resulting in a gap and poor healing. Conversely, we have seen cases where surgeons have cut away too little bone, so that the bunion recurs and the patient needs to undergo yet another painful operation and prolonged recuperation. In some cases, the screws used to realign the bones are inappropriately sited, resulting in toes pointing upwards.
On a tangential note, many patients undergoing foot or lower limb surgery will be at risk of developing a DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis). This is a blood clot in the veins of the leg which, if left untreated, can cause impaired circulation to the foot and lower leg and, in serious cases, result in amputation.
An untreated DVT can also cause clots to travel into the cardio-pulmonary (heart and lung) system and develop into a pulmonary embolism (lung clot) or a stroke.
DVT symptoms include pain, swelling and tenderness in one leg (usually the calf); a heavy ache in the affected area; warmness in the area of the clot, and redness of the skin.
It is important for Orthopaedic Surgeons to take reasonable steps to minimise the risk of a patient developing a blood clot in the leg following surgery. This could include measures such as compression stockings or prophylactic anti-coagulation medications to thin the blood. This is a further thing to bear in mind if undergoing planned surgery which is likely to leave you immobile for any length of time. Failure to take steps to prevent a DVT may give rise to a claim in negligence.
Should you require assistance with a medical negligence claim relating to Orthopaedic surgery or any other medical matter, please contact a member of the Medical Negligence Team.