Women who find out they are at high risk of breast cancer have some difficult decisions to make, such as whether they choose to undergo a preventative mastectomy in the hope of reducing the risk.

£10,000 Awarded to Woman Whose Breast Expanders Used in Preventative Double Mastectomy Deflated

But that already emotionally charged process can be made even worse when mistakes with a patient’s care are made.

Specialist litigation executive, Sonia Parkes, recently settled the case of a young woman who was left in pain for six months after breast implants used in preventative reconstructive surgery deflated and needed removing and replacing.

The Claimant ‘C’ was just 27 in April 2015 when she was diagnosed with the BRCA1 mutation gene, the most common cause of hereditary breast cancer. The breast surgeon at the defendant hospital trust explained she would need to undergo a double mastectomy followed by immediate reconstruction of the breasts.

In the two-stage procedure, C was told that Acellular Dermal Matrices (ADM) would be used to act as the soft tissue that would support the breast expanders. These empty implants would be gradually filled with saline to stretch the skin before they were eventually replaced with a permanent implant.

C underwent a double mastectomy a year later in May 2016 and was fitted with the submuscular expanders. A month later, C had two lots of saline injections two weeks apart to increase the expanders. She was told they shouldn’t be left in for more than 18 months, however this was incorrect as they should only remain in situ for six months.

In September, C was told she would be seen in four months to discuss the permanent implants. This appointment in January took place with a locum consultant who sent a letter to C’s breast surgeon requesting they organise the second part of the reconstructive surgery.

Due to an oversight, C was not listed for surgery until she saw her breast surgeon in November 2017. By this time, the expanders had been in for 18 months and, by the trust’s own (wrong) advice should have been removed.

At C’s pre-operative assessment in December, a heart murmur was detected so surgery was put back while this was investigated.

By the middle of January, C’s right expander had deflated so she saw her GP who referred her to the breast surgeon. A plan was put in place to bring surgery forward so they could replace the expanders.

After making an official complaint, C was transferred to another NHS Trust where she underwent surgery to replace the expanders in June 2018. During surgery the expander was found to have a hole in it.

Four months later C noticed her left breast had also lost volume. She then had both expanders replaced with permanent implants.

C alleged that, but for the negligent act of leaving the expanders in too long, she wouldn’t have needed surgery in June 2018 to replace the right-side breast expander. Had the expanders been removed within six months then the right-side expander would not have deflated. The case was settled in May 2022 for £10,000.

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Case settled by

Sonia Parkes

Senior Litigator

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