Case won-negligent foot surgery
Medical Solicitors have secured an award of £175,000 for our client Susan Whatmough, a 59-year-old woman, for the negligent surgery carried out to her feet.
Susan had a medical history of asthma, arthritis, with long standing degenerative changes in her spinal problems, as well as bunions in her feet. In early 2006, she developed pain in both of her feet.
In 2006, Susan was seen at West Suffolk Hospital, by a Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon. He diagnosed arthritis in the joint between her big toe and the ball of her foot. Susan was referred to a second Orthopaedic Surgeon, Mr William Schenk who performed a Cheilectomy on 29 June 2007. This was an operation to remove a bony lump on top of the joint connecting Susan’s big toe to her foot.
Post-operatively, Susan developed an infection in the operation wound, and when she was reviewed, complained of such discomfort, that she was prescribed morphine slow release tablets and morphine patches to control the pain. She also told the doctors that she had difficulty with a walking frame because of left sided hip pain. Susan was told to weight bear on her heels while walking for the next 4 weeks and to move around as little as possible before resuming any active rehabilitation. Unfortunately, Susan continued to have problems with her foot swelling and complained of significant discomfort with it along with restricted movement. It was suggested to her that she was suffering a condition called ‘Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome’, and she was referred for physiotherapy.
Susan continued in severe pain and discomfort, and in the November 2007, was advised by Mr Schenk that the only option was for her to undergo a Keller’s procedure.
On 15th January 2008 Susan underwent a Keller’s procedure on her right big toe and then underwent an extensive foot program of physiotherapy, video gait analysis, insoles, exercises and shoe advice. However, she continued in severe pain and discomfort. In September 2008, she was told by a Physiotherapist that there was nothing more that they could do, and that the she would be referred to a Podiatric Surgeon.
In April 2009, Mr Schenk offered to perform another Keller’s procedure on the big toe on her left foot at the same time as performing a Cheilectomy as x-rays had revealed that there was no cartilage left in the larger joint of the big toe on this foot either. Susan also saw a Consultant Podiatric Surgeon who expressed concern that x-rays and an MRI scan had shown death of bone tissue.
Eventually in April 2010 Susan underwent further surgery, and the combined Cheilectomy and Keller’s procedure was performed.
The end result for Susan is a permanently abnormal walking gait, and additional hip and back pain. She became significantly depressed as a result of her disability. Her feet are misshapen, painful and swell on using or standing on them. She can only walk a few hundred yards outside with the assistance of a walking stick. She became unsteady on her feet and is now more limited in her day to day activities compared with her pre-operation condition. She is no longer able to wear shoes for long periods of time and has to wear slippers for the majority of the time. Her overall mobility has decreased by 50% as a result of the negligence, and she now requires additional pain medication which also adversely affects her.
The claim was on the basis that other treatment options should have been discussed from the outset, such as having her toe joint fused. This would have allowed her to wear flat shoes or shoes with a small heel, but would have meant that she would end up with a pain free foot.
In relation to the 2nd operation, the Keller’s procedure should not have been an option; the only reasonable options were a fusion or doing nothing further surgically.
Gerwyn Samuel, Barrister at Doughty Street Chambers, worked with our Director, Caroline Moore, on this case.