A further category of negligence in the context of Orthopaedics is the failure to diagnose and treat fractures.
An Orthopaedic doctor will rely on his clinical examination and the patient’s reported symptoms, as well as an x-ray or scan, when looking for a fracture. If an Orthopaedic surgeon has missed a fracture when it ought properly to have been diagnosed, there is often a viable claim for compensation.
There are many different types of fracture and some can be difficult to detect, both clinically and on x-ray. Stress fractures, for instance, may produce relatively minor symptoms similar to a sprain or soft tissue injury and appear as a very fine line. Compression fractures of the spine on the other hand, are relatively easy to detect. A fractured wrist (scaphoid) can also present with sprain-like symptoms and be missed on x-ray.
A failure to diagnose and treat a fracture can give rise to a legal claim for compensation. However, it is worth noting that Claimants in such cases can only claim damages for the additional pain and suffering caused by the fracture being missed, rather than for the index fracture itself (which is likely to have been caused non-negligently).
For example, if a wrist fracture is missed and the bones heal in the wrong position (malunion), a patient can be left with limited range of movement, stiffness or impaired grip strength. If the index fracture itself was a serious one and the patient would always have been left with these severe problems in any event (irrespective of whether the treatment was immediate or not), there is unlikely to be a valid claim in negligence. However, if the patient can show that with earlier intervention, he/she would have made a better recovery and return to function, there are reasonable prospects of recovering compensation.
Should you require assistance with a claim relating to Orthopaedic surgery or medical negligence, please contact a member of the Medical Negligence Team.