Lithium Toxicity Compensation

Lithium Toxicity Compensation

read our advice about lithium toxicityOur friendly team of specialist lawyers at Medical Solicitors have the expertise to help you succeed in a medical negligence claim for compensation if you have suffered from lithium toxicity.

Compensation can be claimed when prescription of lithium leads to kidney damage Medical Negligence. 

Do contact our friendly team of specialist lawyers at Medical Solicitors. We conduct most of our Clinical and Medical Negligence claims under ‘No Win, No Fee’ agreements, also known as Conditional Fee Agreements. So, you do not have to worry about how you are going to afford to bring a compensation claim, you have nothing to lose in speaking to us.

About Lithium prescribing

Lithium is a well-established choice of medication for depression and other mental health conditions. Lithium is a natural salt that helps to produce energy and stabilises the brain cells. Lithium works for people with depression because it improved the function of the brain. Lithium should be taken long term, for around 10 to 20 years. Therefore, being prescribed lithium for many years is not medical negligence in itself. The problem arises when it starts to effect the kidney function of the person taking it.

If you are taking lithium you should have blood tests around every 3 months to check the level of lithium in your body and the function of your organs. It is rare for lithium to cause a decline in kidney function, but it is possible. If your kidney function has fallen below 45% you should be referred to a nephrologist to monitor your kidney function.

The level of lithium in your body is measured by taking blood. It should be in the “Therapeutic Range,” this is between 0.5-1.1. However, if your lithium levels are above 1 you should be referred to a nephrologist to assess the effects on kidney function.

The effect of Lithium poisoning

Lithium poisoning (called ‘Lithium toxicity’) can be fatal, and can cause brain and other neurological injuries. Having too much lithium in your system can cause dehydration and this is why it is very important to keep having regular blood tests.

Lithium can cause nephrogenic diabetes which is when the kidneys lose the ability to retain water. This can cause the person to need to use the toilet frequently, and can cause discomfort and dehydration.

Other conditions affecting kidney function

There are other factors that can cause decline in kidney function, if you already had chronic kidney disease, diabetes or heart problems. Therefore, it might be that lithium is not the cause. To win a clinical negligence case we would have to show that lithium caused the decline in kidney function. This is most likely evident when the decline happens over a short period of time and at a fast rate, for instance rapid decline within a year. If your kidney function is declining slowly overtime this is more likely related to other health conditions. However, lithium can add to the decline. Therefore, if your kidney function declines below 45% and you’re showing signs of lithium toxicity you should still be referred to a nephrologist.

What should be done about Lithium toxicity?

If you have been referred your lithium prescription should be reviewed and it should be reduced. Clearly, there should be discussion between your GP, psychiatrist, and nephrologist for the best cause of action, as stopping lithium abruptly could cause serious mental health problems. There has to be a risk and benefit analysis and you should usually be involved in that decision-making process. You may need extra help and support for your mental health condition if you are have to reduce your medication to protect yourself from lithium toxicity.

Examples of Past Claims

  • £2.4M for a gentleman who was irreversibly brain injured and confined to a wheelchair owing to the negligent failures by both his GP and a Hospital Trust to act upon signs of lithium toxicity.
  • £20,000 for a man whose kidney function declined, but his prescription of lithium was not altered until a year and a half later, by which time he had contracted nephrogenic diabetes and his chronic kidney disease has gone to stage IV. The claimant already had chronic kidney disease and a number of other health conditions that were contributing to his declining kidney function. However, his kidney function started to rapidly decline in a short space of time and his lithium level was at 1.1. Thankfully, when the lithium was stopped his kidney function did not decline any further and improved slightly. Therefore, he did not need dialysis. His claim was limited to the pain and suffering for the 18-month period where his kidney function carried on declining as a result of his medication staying the same.