£22,000 awarded for leg burns suffered during surgery
Thigh and knee injuries including burns caused by faulty surgical equipment during routine surgery two years earlier led to a successful clinical negligence compensation claim of £22,000 being awarded in 2014 to a 54 year-old woman.
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The claimant entered hospital for routine surgery. She underwent a joint replacement and fusion of her right middle finger.
During surgery a device called a "Bair Hugger" machine was used to keep her warm. The machine was faulty and malfunctioned. During the procedure it blew very hot air directly onto her legs.
The hot air caused injury to the claimant's legs. She suffered second degree burns to both her thighs. The inner area of both her knees was also affected.
The burns were significant. She was left with scarring on the knees and thighs as a result. The pigmentation in her skin was affected leaving her with disfiguring visible marks.
The claimant was in significant pain following the surgery. She described the pain as "searing". She was prescribed morphine for the pain. This had limited effect.
After being discharged the symptoms continued. She developed fluid-filled blisters on her thighs. The largest was 5cm in length.
The left leg healed reasonably well. Burns to the right knee and thigh became inflamed and cellulitis was suspected. The lady was put on a course of antibiotics.
Her sleep was interrupted by the pain and discomfort.
Over time the burns healed but the claimant was left with pigmented skin where the blisters had developed and scarring. She felt like she had to wear trousers at all times. She could not bear for her legs to be on show.
A consultant plastic surgeon confirmed the scars would be permanent. No surgery would be possible or necessary to hide the scars. The claimant would benefit from cosmetic camouflage.
It was alleged that the defendant hospital was negligent insofar as they failed to inspect the Bair Hugger before use. Previous damage had been repaired improperly as the warming nozzle had been taped to the blanket.
The failure to provide safe equipment led directly to the claimant suffering second degree burns to both legs.
She would be left with permanent scarring and pigmented skin. Her legs would be disfigured.
Conclusion and settlement
Liability was not admitted but the matter did not proceed to a Court hearing.
Compensation of £22,000 was accepted by way of an out of Court settlement.
The entirety of the damages was attributed to "pain, suffering and loss of amenity."
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About the author
Gaynor Haliday is an experienced legal researcher and published author. She has had numerous articles published in the press and is a legal industry commentator.
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