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Appendicitis misdiagnosis can lead to severe abdominal pain, rupture, and other complications due to delayed or incorrect treatment.
If your life, or the life of a loved one, has been affected by a missed appendicitis diagnosis, we can help. If your injuries were caused by the negligence of a doctor, nurse, midwife or other medical professional, you may be entitled to claim compensation.
You can make a compensation claim with the help and support of a specialist clinical negligence solicitor.
In this article
You are not alone
According to the NHS, 40,000 people are admitted to hospital in England with appendicitis each year. In treating the condition, prompt removal of the appendix is usually recommended because any delay can lead to complications.
Many of the symptoms of appendicitis are typical of a number of abdominal disorders. A doctor may therefore miss or misdiagnose the condition.
Failing to correctly diagnose appendicitis in the first instance does not necessarily mean your GP was negligent - your symptoms and medical history may have made another diagnosis more reasonable.
However, in cases where another medical practitioner would have made a correct diagnosis of appendicitis but your doctor did not, it may be possible to make a claim for clinical negligence.
If you decide to make an appendicitis misdiagnosis claim, your medical negligence solicitor will take you through every step of the claims process. Your solicitor will be with you until you win your claim and get the compensation you deserve.
Am I eligible for appendicitis misdiagnosis compensation?
Medical negligence claims differ from personal injury claims. To make a successful claim your solicitor will need to establish:
- a medical professional breached their duty of care towards you, and
- this breach caused you to suffer harm or injury
Find out online if you can claim with our injury claim calculator. Or you can call 0800 376 1001 to speak to a specialist advisor. Find out in minutes if you have a claim.
How long after an appendicitis misdiagnosis do I have to start a claim?
You usually have 3 years to make an appendicitis misdiagnosis claim, from the date you learned you were harmed by the substandard care (the date of knowledge).
For an injured child, the three-year limitation period begins on their 18th birthday, giving them until they are 21 to start a medical negligence claim.
Get an impartial opinion
To get impartial advice on whether you have a claim, speak to an injury claim expert on 0800 376 1001.
A brief phone consultation will tell you exactly where you stand. There is no obligation to start a claim.
How much compensation can I claim for a missed appendicitis diagnosis?
The amount of money you could claim for your injury will depend on:
- the seriousness of your injury, and
- any financial losses or costs you have incurred.
At the start of your claim, your solicitor will consider the many ways your injuries have affected your life. Your solicitor will take these considerations into account to calculate the correct compensation award.
Get an accurate compensation estimate (including for multiple injuries), confirm your legal position, and check if you have a No Win, No Fee claim.
Updated December 2023
Compensation Calculator v3.04
General damages are awarded for pain, suffering and loss of amenity (PSLA).
Awards for general damages are set by the Judicial College and published in their guidelines for personal injury awards.
Special damages is compensation for quantifiable financial losses you've incurred as a result of your appendicitis misdiagnosis Compensation can include loss of earnings (including future anticipated earnings loss), retraining costs, career trajectory impact, and any additional expenses directly related to your injury.
These damages will also cover any medical or treatment bills, such as emergency surgery, antibiotics and pain medication.
How long do I have to start a claim?
If your injury is apparent immediately after medical treatment, you will have 3 years to start a claim.
It may be that the negligent procedure happened more than 3 years ago, but your injury was only diagnosed recently, within the last 3 years. If so, you may still be able to make a claim.
What if your injury was diagnosed months or years after treatment?
You may not be immediately aware of your injury. In some cases, months and even years can pass before symptoms appear.
The law allows you to make a medical negligence claim up to three years after the 'date of knowledge' (when you first learned of the injury).
It is recommended that you start a claim as soon as possible, as medical negligence cases can be complex. Starting your claim sooner will give your solicitor more time to gather medical evidence, assess the extent of your injury and to negotiate interim payments and your final compensation amount.
How is appendicitis misdiagnosed?
In order to make a correct diagnosis, a doctor must identify the symptoms presented as appendicitis. This is not always easy. Appendicitis can be confused with a range of other disorders such as gastroenteritis, severe irritable syndrome (IBS), constipation, bladder and urine infections, Crohns disease and, for women, menstrual pain.
What are the recognised symptoms of appendicitis?
A painful swelling of the appendix caused by a blockage at the entrance, appendicitis typically begins with intermittent pain in the middle abdomen. As it progresses the pain usually travels to the lower right hand side - the site of the appendix - becoming constant and severe.
In addition, the pain may become worse when pressed or when running or coughing.
Other common symptoms of appendicitis include:
- Loss of appetite
If a person presents with abdominal pain combined with any of the other symptoms, a doctor should carry out a proper assessment. As well as taking a history of any symptoms, they should also examine the abdomen to look for any rigidity or tenderness. For further confirmation, blood, urine and imaging tests can also be carried out.
What are the repercussions of a misdiagnosis?
If a doctor misses appendicitis, the repercussions for the individual affected can be serious.
Not only can it lead to prolonged pain and suffering but, if not removed, the appendix can burst. This can lead to dangerous infections such as peritonitis or an abscess which may need to drained.
Pursuing a claim for medical negligence
In order to be compensated for their pain and suffering, both financially and psychologically, an individual with an appendicitis misdiagnosis can pursue a claim for compensation.
What are the duties of a doctor?
All doctors have a legal duty to make the care of their patient their first concern. Set out by the General Medical Council, this ensures they provide a good standard of practice and care and keep their skills and knowledge up to date. Included in this is a duty to give a correct diagnosis, as is reasonable, given all the information and symptoms at hand.
Identifying medical negligence
In cases where a doctor fails to recognise appendicitis as a possible cause of the symptoms - for example by not asking the right questions or carrying out sufficient testing to rule out other possible illnesses - their actions may be deemed negligent. The distinction between a reasonable mistake and negligence can be nuanced, and will depend on the facts of the case.
How can negligence be proven?
Pursuing a misdiagnosis claim may not be as straightforward as some other areas of personal injury. Cases of this kind are often fiercely defended by legal and medical experts. A solicitor will arrange an independent medical report and can advise a claimant on the types of evidence needed to prove a missed appendicitis diagnosis in order to give the best chance of a successful outcome.
Appendicitis claim case study
The female claimant was awarded total damages of £47,500 following a hospital's missed appendicitis diagnosis.The claimant was aged 61 when she visited her GP complaining of abdominal pain and a high temperature. On examination her abdomen was tender. Her GP referred her to the defendant's hospital on the basis that she believed she was suffering with appendicitis.
Blood tests were carried out on admission to the hospital. Although the claimant had not reported any urinary problems, the clinician who admitted her believed she may be suffering with a urinary issue. Having been given three doses of intravenous antibiotics and pain killers the claimant was advised that they would need to carry out an ultrasound scan.
Two days later the claimant was discharged from hospital and asked to telephone to arrange the scan as there were delays. She was told that the scan would not be carried out for six to eight weeks but due to increased levels of pain she attempted to bring it forward. It was arranged six days after being discharged.
Having had the ultrasound, a CT scan was also performed which showed a large amount of pus in the claimant's abdomen.
Having been transferred to another hospital, she underwent an open laparotomy where it was discovered that her appendix had ruptured resulting in pus in her abdomen. Her large and small bowel was perforated and it was necessary to carry out a hemicolectomy and primary anastomosis.
She remained in hospital for fourteen days before being discharged.
The injury meant that the claimants bowel movements became more frequent and had to be controlled with medication. She would have to take this medication for the rest of her life.
She was left with a midline scar but had the diagnosis been made earlier it is possible that only keyhole surgery would have been required so the scars would have been smaller.
Prior to the accident she had worked full time but felt unable to do so after the accident. This resulted in a loss of income and pension contributions.
NHS appendicitis claim settlement
The claimant's solicitor argued that the hospital had been negligent. The hospital had not thoroughly investigated the problems reported by the claimant. The hospital accepted that there had been a breach of duty but reserved their position on causation.
After a period of negotiations between the claimant and defendant an out-of-court settlement for damages was agreed. Total damages for the missed appendicitis diagnosis were agreed at £47,500.
Clinical negligence claims
Appendicitis misdiagnosis is usually categorised as clinical negligence. Click on the icon below for more information.
How we can help you with your medical negligence claim
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About the author
Chris Salmon is a co-founder and Director of Quittance Legal Services. Chris has played key roles in the shaping and scaling of a number of legal services brands and is a regular commentator in the legal press.